'Devastating' New Jersey wildfire intentionally set, authorities say

MEREDITH DELISO
·2 min read

A New Jersey brush fire that damaged dozens of structures earlier this week and critically injured a firefighter was intentionally set, officials said.

The wildland fire started Sunday afternoon in Lakewood. It was 100% contained about 24 hours later after burning 167 acres, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said.

At least 29 homes and buildings were damaged, ABC Philadelphia station WPVI reported. Several outbuildings, fences, boats and a car also were destroyed, the fire service said.

MORE: New Jersey brush fire destroys dozens of homes, forces evacuations

A firefighter suffered cardiac arrest while responding to the fire and remains hospitalized in stable condition, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said Friday afternoon.

PHOTO: Firefighters in Ocean County, New Jersey work to contain a massive forest fire that burned 170 acres, damaged nearby structures and seriously injured a firefighter on March 14, 2021. (WPVI)
PHOTO: Firefighters in Ocean County, New Jersey work to contain a massive forest fire that burned 170 acres, damaged nearby structures and seriously injured a firefighter on March 14, 2021. (WPVI)

The fire also temporarily shut down portions of the Garden State Parkway and forced more than 100 people to evacuate.

"The significance of this wildland fire cannot be overstated," Billhimer said in a statement. "We have a firefighter that suffered cardiac arrest while battling this fire. Three homeless people living in the woods were saved from the advancing fire. Numerous residences and commercial properties were damaged and hundreds of people were evacuated."

"It is only by the grace of God that no one was killed," he added.

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The wildfire was first reported in the area of Cedarbridge Avenue and Airport Road in Lakewood, before advancing to neighboring Brick, where residents were evacuated Sunday night.

The "devastating" fire was driven by 40 mph winds, Greg McLaughlin, chief of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said in a video statement posted Tuesday. Eighty-five fire personnel and several aircraft responded and battled the blaze through the night, he said.

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Authorities have not identified a cause of the fire.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is urged to contact Sgt. Thomas Haskell of the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office at 732-929-2027, extension 3953.

'Devastating' New Jersey wildfire intentionally set, authorities say originally appeared on abcnews.go.com