NJ fire damages homes

BY SUSAN KIM | BERKELEY TOWNSHIP, NJ | June 3, 2002


A 1,000-acre blaze that forced evacuation of some 500 homes in Berkeley Township was contained early Monday morning but not before it burned one home and damaged nine others.

On Sunday night police evacuated homes in the Pinewald section of Berkeley Township. About 30 residents went to a local high school.

The blaze, fueled by drought-ridden forests and 30-mph winds, also threatened nearby Beachwood. It started in a cranberry grove near Double Trouble State Park about 1 p.m. Sunday and had spread to 1,000 acres by 8 p.m., according to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

Double Trouble State Park is in the northeast corner of New Jersey's Pinelands, a 1.1 million-acre forest.

It burned in central New Jersey near the coast about 50 miles northeast of Atlantic City. Fire crews continued Monday to watch for signs of rekindling.

Nursing homes and healthcare centers had to evacuate residents and patients who were vulnerable to smoke.

A 24-mile stretch of the Garden State Parkway -- one of New Jersey's busiest highways and the main route between New York City and Atlantic City -- was shut down Sunday and did not reopen until early Monday. Several local roads were also blocked.

Heavy smoke continued to cause visibility problems Monday.

Although May was an average rainfall month, New Jersey is still making up an extreme rain deficit that has lasted for more than a year.

More than 300 firefighters battled the blaze.


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