Massive West Milford wildfire burns 250 acres, 30% contained

The wildfire in West Milford, New Jersey has reached 250 acres in size and is 30% contained, according to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

The fire started near the rest stop off Route 23 North and Spring Lake Road in the woods, according to West Milford Mayor Michele Dale.

Echo Lake Road is still closed between Route 23 and Macopin Road.

Over two dozen firefighters have been working to ensure no structures were threatened by the blaze. Local police say no residents or neighborhoods have been impacted, and no evacuation orders were issued.

Helicopters were above the fire Thursday, and captured just how far that smoke spread, along with choppers dousing flames with buckets of water.

Officials say crews started a backfiring operation to help contain the fire near Echo Lake.

Residents are being advised to keep their windows closed to avoid smoke that may be traveling through the air. Officials are restricting campfires and open agricultural burning.

Zachary Turner says it was like his neighborhood was covered in fog. Every breath was filled with smoke.

“I live right on Butler over here about a mile and a half away and just opening my window, I was able to smell it and looking around, you could see the sky was getting cloudier,” he said.

Route 23 was shut down the roadway Wednesday due to smoke hazards and firefighter safety. Northbound lanes of Route 23 have reopened.

April is peak fire season in New Jersey, officials said.

On Wednesday, fire crews worked to put out a forest fire spanning across 3,900 acres in Manchester Township, Ocean County.

That fire is now 100% contained, New Jersey officials said.

Unlike the terrain where the Manchester Township wildfire occurred, the land in West Milford is steep and rocky, officials said. Chief of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service Greg McLaughlin says this makes fighting flames more difficult and requires more work by hand.

“It’s very fatiguing and you start to see that fatigue set in,” McLaughlin said. He attributes the heat and long hours with the pressure on these New Jersey firefighters, some of whom also battled flames in Manchester Township

The cause of the West Milford fire remains under investigation.

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