A Manchester man was charged with 25 counts of arson in connection with six forest fires in three Ocean County communities, including one that burned over 600 acres.

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said Gregory Fullman, 32, was responsible for intentionally starting these forest fires:

  • In Little Egg Harbor on May 16 and Dec. 8, 2021
  • In Lakewood on Dec. 1 and Jan. 21, 2021
  • In Manchester on Dec. 1 and 16, 2021

The fires did not include a fire along the Garden State Parkway on a windy day in March that charred 167 acres in Lakewood and Brick. Billhimer said that fire was intentionally set but no one has been charged.

The prosecutor said the investigation has been stymied by the refusal of 36 witnesses who will not cooperate with detectives.

“I extend my sincere appreciation to the many law enforcement agencies that were involved in this very thorough and wide-ranging investigation,” Billhimer said in a statement. “The resolve and determination exhibited by these professionals over the last eight months has resulted in this arrest. I am thankful for their hard work, and grateful that no one was hurt or killed as a result of these fires."

Wildfire in Little Egg Harbor
Wildfire in Little Egg Harbor (Roman Isaryk Jr. via Ocean County Sheriff)
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Two fires in Ocean County created a smokey haze

The May 16 fire in Little Egg Harbor burned 617 acres for three days in the Bass River State Forest while the state was under "abnormally dry" conditions, according to New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow.

Combined with a second fire in the Brendon Byrne State Forest, a smoky haze hung over Ocean County for several days.

A fire in Lakewood on Jan. 21 was reported in Bennett's Field near Exit 89 of the Garden State Parkway two days after a fire was set in a culvert at Exit 91 in Brick that shut the road for hours.

Billhimer did not disclose a motive for setting the fires.

Fullman is being held in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing.

 

Fire in the Bass River State Forest in May, 2021
Fire in the Bass River State Forest in May, 2021 ( NJ Forest Fire Service)
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Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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