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Some Northern Boulevard Residents Evacuated During Fire Allowed To Return Home

Firefighters will be on duty all night

by Patricia A. Miller

Some Pinewald residents are being allowed to return home today after evacuating from a forest fire that destroyed over 300 acres.

Residents who live on the south side of Northern Boulevard and on Grand Central Parkway South of the Northern Boulevard intersection are being allowed to return home, according to a Nixle alert from the Berkeley Township Police Department.
 
Residents who are still displaced can use the Berkeley branch of the Ocean County Library on Station Road or the Toms River branch on Washington Street as shelters, according to the alert.

Firefighters are still trying to close in on a brush fire that roared to life around noon and has destroyed 300 acres in the Pinewald section of Berkeley Township, a state fire official said.
 
"It was about 30 percent contained as of 3:30," said Steve Holmes, Assistant State Fire Warden for the state Forest Fire Service. "We'll probably be here until it rains. It's going to rain tomorrow night."

A fire warden in the Lakewood fire tower first spotted a column of thick black smoke around noon, he said.

"Which tells us it's burning very fast," Holmes said. "We knew we had a good fire."

Residents along Northern Boulevard and several surrounding streets in Pinewald were evacuated. So far the blaze did not reach any houses, but Holmes said he heard a shed was destroyed.

The fire spread rapidly, fanned by winds up to 40 miles an hour, low humidity and tinder-dry woods. Local and state firefighters spend much of the afternoon working on a "block" to contain the flames, and even did a controlled "burnout" near the Toms River Intermediate School South South on Pinewald Road, he said.

Smoke wafted through the pines, trees caught on fire and the blaze crept up to a driveway near the school, all part of the burnout, later this afternoon.

Fires in this section of New Jersey are common in the spring and fall, said Holmes, who grew up in Beachwood.

And the harsh, snowy winter didn't reduce the fire risk, because of the extremely permeable sandy soils in the Pine Barrens, he said.

"The sand is almost like beach sand," he said. "It drains very fast. We don't need a drought."

The winds are expected to drop slightly later tonight, which should help with firefighting efforts, he said.

"We are here for the duration," Holmes said. "We are planning on a night shift."

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