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Major forest fire in South Jersey

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text">Chopper 6 HD over the woods fire in the Wharton State Forest near Hammonton, NJ.</span></div>
October 21, 2008 9:49:02 PM PDT
A major forest fire burned through parts of three southern New Jersey counties Tuesday, engulfing hundreds of acres of forest and forcing the closure of a major roadway. Fire officials did not know what caused the blaze that tore through a section of Wharton State Forest spanning parts of Camden, Burlington and Atlantic counties.

Assistant State Fire Warden Stephen Maurer said the fire had burned about 300 to 500 acres by early evening and could grow as large as 1,000 acres on its current trajectory.

Police closed off heavily traveled Route 206 when the fire jumped both sides of the highway, and smoke from the blaze reached the Atlantic City boardwalk more than 30 miles to the east.

A wall of flames at least 100 feet high was visible from the checkpoint a mile away as the sun set.

Many residents of the Hammonton neighborhood where the fire was centered were hastily evacuated from their homes as wind-whipped flames edged closer.

Brian Parks said police were knocking on doors asking people to leave immediately. He and several others took refuge at a police checkpoint about a mile away, wondering if they would have homes to go back to.

"I have no idea. We just got Mom out. They were running around here shutting all the propane tanks off, checking every house to make sure everybody was out. It's a mess," he said.

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