NJ wildfire sparked by Fourth of July fireworks is 90% contained at 4,300 acres

A wildfire is still raging four days after officials say fireworks were set off in Wharton State Forest on the Fourth of July.

Crews are battling the blaze in Tabernacle Township near the Batona Campground and Apple Pie Hill as it grows to 4,300 acres with 90 percent containment. 

On Sunday, officials announced that fireworks were identified as the cause of the wildfire, which has been named Tea Time Hill Wildfire.

"A fireworks device lighted inside the forest ignited the fire late Thursday, July 4," the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said.

The fire was discovered around 9 a.m. Friday by the Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower.

The campground was evacuated as the Batona Trail was closed between Route 532 and Carranza Road, and the Tulpehocken Trail was shut from Apple Pie Hill to Hawkins Bridge. 

Local Wharton State Forest roads are also closed, along with Carranza Road from the Carranza Memorial to Speedwell Road at Friendship Field.

Officials say the fire is in a remote area with tough terrain that hasn’t burned since 1954.


Wharton State Forest wildfire: Inside grueling conditions firefighters face in extreme heat fighting fire

The wildfire in Wharton State Forest has been burning for three days and the command center is where firefighters come to get some rest after a long shift. It’s been a really tough fight, not just against the flames, but the intense heat.

Extreme weather conditions are also adding to the difficulty as more than 70 men and women try to contain some of the flames.

"It’s hot, it’s humid and the pine flies," said Chief Bill Donnelly. "So the guys are swatting stuff out of their faces, they got swear dripping down, so they’re working really hard, and they’re doing a real good job."

"I’ll call it a flash drought we were in," said John Earlin, NJ Forest Service Section Fire Warden. "We’ve had these heavy high temperatures and that high temperature contributes to how fast it dries out."

Crews are out monitoring the fire, which is mostly contained. Wind is a big variable as it can whip the fire back. They are warning residents across the state to be extra vigilant about outdoor open fires as there may not be rain until later this week.

One question remains- if it is illegal to set off fireworks in the state forest, who is the culprit who caused the wildfire?