More than 600 acres of Wharton State Forest are burned in major wildfire

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A wind-driven major wildfire in Wharton State Forest in Burlington and Atlantic Counties continued to spread Sunday evening as more than 600 acres burned and the fire was only 10% contained as of 7:30 p.m., with structures threatened and at least one campground evacuated, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service reported.

Firefighters had begun setting backfires in an effort to contain the blaze, reported along the Mullica River in Washington, Shamong, Mullica, and Hammonton Townships in the Pine Barrens.

At 5 p.m., the fire service had reported no structures were threatened; two hours later that had changed, with six structures in the Paradise Lakes Campground in Hammonton at risk. The campground was evacuated. Local fire departments from Atlantic and Burlington Counties were providing structure protection.

No injuries were reported, said the fire service, which first mentioned the fire on its Facebook page around 1 p.m.

Boat launches along the Mullica River, as well as the Mullica River Campground and Mullica River Trail, were to remain closed from the Atsion Recreation Area to Batsto Village until further notice. Batsto Village and all associated hiking and mountain bike trails are closed to visitors, the fire service said. Pinelands Adventures had suspended kayak and canoe trips.

According to the fire service, a wildfire becomes a “major wildfire” after it exceeds 100 acres.

Wharton State Forest consists of 115,000 acres spread across Burlington and Atlantic Counties.

Dry and breezy conditions Sunday, with wind gusts at times close to 30 mph, contributed to the fire, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly said. Winds were expected to subside Sunday evening.

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