HAMMONTON — Firefighters continue to work for a third day at containing a forest fire inside Wharton State Forest. The fire that has left a smoky smell in the air around the Jersey Shore 30 to 40 miles away.

The fire is believed to be the largest in Wharton State Forest since the Atsion fire of August 2007, according to Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Bob Geist.

The fire that started Thursday has burned through 3,500 acres in a remote area of the forest near Batsto, a village in Washington Township. Geist said the crews were on all night working and have the fire 100 percent  contained and 30 percent under control.

The fire is continuing to consume interior unburned pockets of fuel such as underbrush and branches, according to Geist. "Crews will begin mop up operations today, while continuing to patrol and hold containment lines as the fire progresses through unburned interior pockets of fuel. The unburned pockets are well away from the containment lines," Geist said.

35 Forest Fire Service Personnel are fighting the fire with 10 type 6 engines, 1 Tractor and Plow unit, 3 water tenders, 1 observation helicopter operating from Coyle Field.

Ocean County Sheriff Mike Matronardy said that smoke continues to waft over southern areas of the county.

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Geist said the FFS is taking steps to ensure the safety of fire fighters in the hot and humid conditions.

"The service has been running regular supply trucks to the front lines carrying water, sports drinks, and other cooling techniques. Local volunteer EMS Crews from Washington Township and Bass River Township are also on scene to provide any first aid that might be needed close to the scene of the fire," Geist said.

During their shifts there also mandated breaks off the front lines for rest and rehydration. No personnel has been injured so far, according to Geist.

Several campgrounds closed on Friday because of smoke and ash, including Mullica River Camp, Lower Forge Camp, Hawkins Bridge Camp and Godfrey Bridge Camp, are open on Saturday. Basto Village is open on Saturday but the Batona Trail remains closed.


Contact reporter Dan Alexander at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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