Bass River State Forest wildfire continues to burn; Garden State Parkway reopens

The wildfire in Bass River Township has reached over 5,000 acres in size and is 50% contained.

6abc Digital Staff Image
Friday, June 2, 2023
Firefighters continue to battle New Jersey forest fire
The Bass River State Forest fire has swelled to 5,000 acres.

BASS RIVER, New Jersey -- The smoke from the ongoing Bass River State Forest wildfire in Burlington County shut down a portion of the Garden State Parkway for hours Friday morning.

The smoke, as well as dense fog, led to the closure of the parkway between exits 38 and 63 around 5 a.m.

Both sides reopened to traffic more than four hours later.

"Smoke is no longer limiting visibility on the road, so the speed restriction has been lifted," the Parkway tweeted just after 11 a.m.

The wildfire in Bass River Township has reached over 5,000 acres in size and is 50% contained, according to officials.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is working to contain a wildfire burning in the area of Allen Road in Bass River State Forest.

During a news conference Thursday, officials said they may be working to put out the flames for several days due to the continued warm and dry weather.

The Timberline Campground was evacuated and the Batona Trail remains closed due to the fire.

The following roads are closed while firefighters work to control the flames:

- Allen Road

- Oswego Road

Chopper 6 over forest fire in Bass River Twp.

The fire began on Wednesday.

"The fire was not accessible with our equipment and vehicles. We worked through the night to try and contain the fire to the smallest area possible," Chief Greg McLaughlin said during Thursday's press conference.

Officials said 70 firefighters were battling the blaze.

"It's devastating in the beginning," Bass River Mayor Deborah Buzby-Cope said. "Nobody wants to see their forest burn down. And we go through it a lot here."

Fortunately, much of the property surrounding the fire has been protected, officials said.

"The houses seem to be in great shape. Our volunteer fire company, the Jersey Forest Fire Service, has been wonderful," the mayor said.

It's been a tough year for the New Jersey Forest Fire Service due to the lack of rain. Because of this, conditions may remain ideal for fires like this one.

"The ongoing drought that we've been in, even though we get some rainfall here, some rainfall there, with the uniqueness of the Pine Barrens, it dries out rather quickly," John Earline from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said.

Fire officials also said the overwhelming majority of forest fires are caused by human activity, so residents are asked to be cautious as the warmer months progress.