Fire Official: Lack Of Injuries, Home Damage During Berkeley Fire 'Phenomenal'

Both wildfires in Berkeley now contained, all roads open

Charred woods off Northern Boulevard
Charred woods off Northern Boulevard

State Forest Fire Service Warden Brian Corvinus didn't sleep well Thursday night.

"I ran this fire through my head about 15 times," said a weary Corvinus, who is also a member of the Manitou Park Fire Company iand lives in the Pinewald section of Berkeley Township.

But in the end, it all worked out.

The massive blaze that began on the Beachwood border and roared into the Pinewald section of Berkeley Township around noon on Thursday was completely contained this morning, as was another blaze in the woods off Pinewald-Keswick Road, he said at a fire update at the Beachwood Municipal Complex this morning.

The weather conditions yesterday were primed for a fire in the pines, with high winds, extremely low humidity and dry forest fuels.

"Berkeley Township residents are extremely lucky," he said. "This fire was like nothing I've ever seen in my career. This fire immediately took off. It was a very aggressive fire right from the get-go."

Corvinus praised firefighters from over 50 area fire companies and the state Forest Fire Service for their "phenomenal" work containing both fires. There were no injuries or major damage to homes. 

"They did an outstanding job," he said. "The second incident made it more complex for us to deal with. We had enough resources so we were able to deal with it."

Officials have dubbed the fire that led to the evacuation of 617 residents in the Northern Boulevard area the "Continental" fire, since it began somewhere in the Continental Boulevard area in Pinewald.

The Pinewald-Keswick fire has been named the "Crossroads" fire, since it began in the area of the Pinewald-Keswick and Dover Road intersection, he said.

The two blazes do not appear to be related, Corvinus said.

Both fires are under investigation by the state Forest Fire Service. Corvinus declined to elaborate.

"We're not prepared to release that at the moment," he said.

Berkeley Township Police Chief Karin T. DiMichele said that by 8 p.m., 213 residents were still out of their homes.

"By 10:30 p.m., everyone was back in their residences,' the chief said.

Area residents should expect residual smoke conditions today, especially as night falls, but firefighters will be on duty monitoring any hot spots, Corvinus said.

He asked that residents and motorists use caution when disposing of cigarettes or anything that could spark a fire.

"If you throw it out the window, that's not a good thing to do," Corvinus said. "Most likely it will start a wildfire."

The area needs a good inch of rain to calm things down. Even then, fire danger still present because of the highly permeable sandy soils of the Pine Barrens and the dry forest fuels, he said.

"It doesn't take long for fire fuels to dry out," Corvinus said.

The Continental fire destroyed 307 acres. The Crossroads fire has eaten through 225 acres, he said.

Heywood April 25, 2014 at 02:33 PM
Sometimes, a good burning is actually beneficial to the forest environ. Unfortunately, the hazard to homes takes first priority.
Brandy the Dog April 25, 2014 at 03:38 PM
good for the forest but grace can't afford any more oxygen depletion...
Heywood April 25, 2014 at 03:59 PM
Leave grace in peace.
Brandy the Dog April 25, 2014 at 04:04 PM
it's gotta be peaceful up there see open space...


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