LAKEWOOD, N.J. — New Jersey firefighters continued to battle a large forest fire Monday that started as a brush fire in the Lakewood area Sunday afternoon.
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service said the blaze was 50% contained and had so far burned over 170 acres of land.
As of Sunday night, 29 residential properties were damaged by the fire, including three that were severely damaged and not habitable, Brick Township Mayor John Ducey said. Two mixed-use commercial structures and eight outbuildings were destroyed by the fire, according to officials.
There were no civilian injuries, as local residents were temporarily evacuated from the area. Brick Township residents were allowed to return home around 7 p.m. Sunday, officials said.
A firefighter was seriously injured and was listed in critical condition late Sunday night, authorities said.
Authorities said the origin of the fire had been identified and the cause was under investigation, however it did not start from a prescribed burn as had been reported by some outlets.
Lakewood police said the brush fire was first reported on Airport Road around 1:22 p.m. and spread south, reaching around 75 acres by 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
By 10:30 p.m., NJ Forest Fire Services said the blaze had burned up to 170 acres.
It started in Lakewood Township, jumped the Garden State Parkway and reached into Brick Township, NJ Forest Fires Officer Maris Gabliks said.
The Hamilton Fire Company in Neptune Township posted a video Sunday evening showing the large flames light up the night sky near the parkway as crews worked.
The Garden State Parkway reopened late Sunday night after being closed in both directions in the area earlier in the day.
Route 528, Route 70 and all other ramps also reopened late Sunday, officials said.
The flames were aided by Sunday’s strong winds and low humidity.
The National Weather Service on Sunday issued a Red Flag Warning for the area through 5 p.m. Monday.
“A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are expected due to a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and dry fuels. Any fires that develop may quickly get out of control and become difficult to contain,” the weather service says on its website.
Video posted to Twitter on Sunday by The Lakewood Scoop showed a wall of flames engulfing trees along the roadway.