Extreme fire danger cause massive fires across New Jersey

The Kanouse fire ignited Wednesday night in West Milford, New Jersey and is still burning Thursday evening. Fire crews working overnight, fighting to get it contained, while fearful homeowners watch on.

This is the largest fire to erupt in North Jersey since 2010. It has ballooned to 400 acres and crews have it 40 percent contained. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service believes they have a handle on it and are not calling for evacuations.

RELATED: Fire burns thousands of acres in Pinelands

"Well, it’s a little unnerving," said Dennis Doyle, a West Milford homeowner. It's gotten worse."

The Kanouse fire started Wednesday, amid New Jersey’s April fire season, when the oak-hickory forest is still dead from winter, but the atmosphere is as hot as summer.

"The sun is shining longer, longer days, warmer days," said Chief Greg McLaughlin, of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service. "The fuel vegetation leaves on the forest floor, they dry out quickly, there’s a lot of air movement, and once a fire gets started that fire is susceptible to spreading very quickly."

With no structures threatened, and no call for evacuations, all residents could do was watch the smoke blow closer.

New Jersey forest fire service says it has high confidence firefight is working well.

They expect the fire to increase to 650 acres before it’s fully contained. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Last month, a wildfire in the Pine Barrens threatened over a dozen homes in Little Egg Harbor, not far from the site of a massive forest fire in 2007 at an Air National Guard target range. That fire burned nearly 27 square miles (70 square kilometers).

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In this photo provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, a massive 2,500-acre forest fire burns in Ocean County, N.J., early Wednesday, April 12, 2023, as firefighters battle the blaze. The fire started late Tuesday, April 11, and is burning across some 2,500 acres (about 1,000 hectares). (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection via AP)

April is the peak month for forest fires in New Jersey, officials said. And despite its status as the nation's most densely populated state, 40% of it is forest. 

There are about 1,500 wildfires a year in New Jersey, according to the state Forest Fire Service.

Elevated Fire Danger

Although the state is not in a drought, there's no chance of rain until the weekend in the part of New Jersey where the fire is burning. 

The state on Wednesday banned campfires and imposed restrictions on charcoal or gas fires.

Fire is an essential element of the Pine Barrens ecosystem; many of the pine trees there rely on heat from fires to release seeds from their cones, providing for the growth of new trees.

Associated Press contributed to this story.