There are indications the massive forest fire in the Pineland could have been set intentionally according to New Jersey Acting Fire Warden Michael Drake.

Larry Ragonese, Press Director for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection says approximately 60 Forest Service personnel have been joined by dozens of Burlington County volunteers to battle the 1,000 acre blaze.

Drake says as of 1PM 50% of the fire has been contained. They are still investigating to be sure of the cause.

There have been no reports of injuries so far, but Ragonese says residents in about 2 dozen nearby homes “have been told the fire is in the vicinity – they’ve not been forced to evacuate at this time but they’re well aware of the situation – some of them have left.”

He says to protect those houses, crew have “mitigated the fire area around the homes – we’ve created containment zones using bulldozers - we’ve also started back-fires around the homes which actually will burn away the brush and the debris around the homes, so if the fire does approach, you’ll have a containment zone there.’

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, who toured the area this morning, says “with current dry conditions and low humidity creating a high danger for wildfires, it is important to remind all New Jersey residents and visitors to exercise extreme caution to prevent wildfires at this particularly vulnerable time.’’

“The Forest Fire Service is increasing fire patrols and we are increasing our response capabilities as this drying trend continues,” added Drake, “but we need your help to prevent fires and to alert us if you see or suspect one.’’

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning in effect until later this evening. Wind gusts are expected to reach 40 MPH this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Drake  says evidence indicates last Friday’s twin fires along the Atlantic City Expressway in Winslow were deliberately set by arsonists.

Follow these guidelines to reduce the risk of fires:

*Use ashtrays in vehicles. Discarding cigarettes, matches and smoking materials is a violation of New Jersey law.

*Obtain necessary permits for campfires. Don't leave fires unattended. Douse them completely.

*Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach them the dangers of fire.

*People living in the forest should maintain a defensible buffer by clearing vegetation within 30 feet of any structures. Also, make sure fire trucks can pass down your driveway.

*Report suspicious vehicles and individuals. Arson is a major cause of forest fires in New Jersey.

Ilya Hemlin, Dan Alexander and The Associated Press contributed to this report.