🔥 The fire burned 3,859 acres as of 10 a.m. and was 50% contained

🔥 Residents in parts of Lakehurst and Manchester were evacuated

🔥 An elevated risk of wildfire continues Wednesday

UPDATE: 200-foot flames burn nearly 4,000 acres — SEE PHOTOS

A massive wildfire in Ocean County that burned 3,859 acres forced the late night evacuation of parts of two towns.

The fire called the "Jimmy's Waterhole Fire" began burning late Tuesday afternoon along Route 539 in Manchester near Horicon Avenue north of Route 70 and was only 10% contained as of 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, according to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

As of 10 a.m. the fire was 50% contained with 20 structures still threatened by the fire.  75 firefighters from 32 fire companies are still working the fire on Wednesday, according to the Forest Fire Service. At one point there was a wall of fire about 200 feet in the air and it was visible Tuesday night on weather radar.

The fire spread to a small section on the Lakehurst side of the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, according to base officials. No installation infrastructure damages or injuries have been reported

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Jimmy's Waterhole fire in Ocean County
Jimmy's Waterhole fire in Ocean County 4/12/23 (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection)

Earlier fire threats

75 structures were threatened by the fire which led to mandatory evacuations in Manchester and Lakehurst late Tuesday night from Division Street to Route 70, Horicon Ave, and Beckerville Road.  170 structures were evacuated in total.

Lakehurst police around 3 a.m.said it was safe for residents to return to their homes per the Forest Fire Service.

Officials were going door-to-door telling people to evacuate with residents rushing to their cars to get out as heavy smoke filled the air. Smoke can still be smelled as far as Jackson and Toms River thanks to a wind out of the west.

The fire also closed Route 539 between Route 70 and Long Swamp Road and Route 70 from the Lakehurst Circle to Beckerville West Road. Both roads were reopened around 7:45 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The name of the fire is determined by the incident commander of a wildfire, according to Forest Fire Service spokeswoman Caryn Schinske. Jimmy’s Waterhole is a geographic feature in the area of where this fire is located.

Fire in the Beckerville section of Manchester and Lakehurst
Fire in the Beckerville section of Manchester and Lakehurst (Tom Trembly, Townsquare Media NJ)
Map showing containment area of Jimmy's Waterhole wildfire
Map showing containment area of Jimmy's Waterhole wildfire (NJ DEP)
Lakehurst fire department trucks
Lakehurst fire department trucks (Tom Trembly, Townsquare Media NJ)

'Elevated' risk of wildfires

The fire, the largest in New Jersey this year, was one of at least five that developed on Tuesday as low relative humidity, gusty west winds up to 20-25 mph and dry fuels combined to create an elevated risk of wildfire across the entire state, according to the National Weather Service.

The agency continued to caution residents to be careful when handling items that could ignite a fire such as a cigarette, machinery that sparks and matches.

"Any dry grasses, dead leaves, and other tree litter that ignite will have the
potential to spread fire quickly," the National Weather Service said.

Fire near the Reliable Paper Recycling along the Hudson- Bergen Light Rail
Fire near the Reliable Paper Recycling along the Hudson- Bergen Light Rail (Bayonne Office of Emergency Management)

Wildfires on Tuesday

Fire broke out at the Reliable Paper Recycling recycling plant in Jersey City around 3 p.m. which was fanned by wind, according to NBC 4 New York. Embers triggered a fire near the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and brush around the plant.

Embers were also blamed for starting a 5-acre wildfire in the Toscana development on Fort Plains Road in Howell. Police said an ember from wood burning in a backyard fire pit sent embers into a landscaping bed. The fire spread across the street before a low flying Forest Fire Service plane dumped water to contain the fire's spread. No charges were filed as the Forest Fire Service determined the fire appears to be accidental.

A 10-acre wildfire broke out Tuesday afternoon in the area of Alameda Drive and East Coral Drive in Brick Township around 1 p.m. which led to some brief evacuation of homes, according to Brick police.

Fire started by a propane explosion burned nearly two acres at the Seaville Shores Campground on Corsons Tavern Road in Upper Township that appeared to destroy several trailers, according to 6 ABC Action News.

The campground on its Facebook page said that those whose home was impacted received a phone call Tuesday and asked people not to call as there is no water or electric service at the campground.

Tom Trembly contributed to this report

Wildfires in New Jersey 4/12/23
Wildfires in New Jersey 4/12/23 (revised) (Canva)
Fire in the area of Alameda Drive and East Coral Drive in Brick Township 4/11/23
Fire in the area of Alameda Drive and East Coral Drive in Brick Township 4/11/23 (Breton Woods Fire Company #1)

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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