Difficult terrain hampers fire crews
HARDWICK TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Firefighters from federal and New Jersey agencies battled a forest fire for a second day early Monday in a popular hiking area near the Pennsylvania border.
The fire was split between Worthington State Forest and the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. A Facebook post from a nearby fire department in Pennsylvania indicated the fire had grown to 70 acres by Sunday night.
It wasn’t clear early Monday what the fire’s cause was or whether it had been completely contained. Authorities planned to provide an update later in the day.
A New Jersey State Forest Fire Service helicopter dropped water on the fire, but National Park Service spokeswoman Kathleen Sandt told the New Jersey Herald that the aircraft had to stop operating after sundown for safety reasons.
Volunteer firefighters were filling up backpack tanks of water and carrying them to the top of the 1,526-foot (465-meter) Mount Tammany, Sandt said.
Incident Commander Eric Weber told WFMZ-TV that the ground crews operating at night had to contend with difficult terrain. “It’s pretty steep and rugged,” Weber said. “It’s probably the steepest terrain in the entire state of New Jersey.”
The crews were using an existing trail as a fire break, Weber told the station.
Pictures and video on social media showed a wall of flames not far from Interstate 80, which winds through the water gap, and was backed up in both directions. Some delays were still being reported during the Monday morning commute.
The fire broke out on a sunny February day that saw temperatures in the mid-50s, news outlets reported.
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