As the 1,000-acre fire in the Pine Barrens continues to burn itself out, it's unlikely whoever started the blaze with carelessly disposed charcoal briquettes will ever be charged, authorities say.

A member of the NJ Forest Fire Service works the fire line in the Pine Barrens.
A member of the NJ Forest Fire Service works the fire line in the Pine Barrens. (George Gerber III, NJFFS)

Larry Hajna, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, tells Townsquare Media that the New Jersey Forest Fire's investigation into the fire that burned 1,012 acres in Greenwood Forest Wildlife Management Area in Manchester off Route 72 on the Burlington County line will determine what charges, if any would be brought against whoever left the briquettes.

Hajna says the fire is believed to have started in Burlington County but spread mostly into Ocean County.  Depending on the circumstances, NJFFS could try to recover the cost of fighting the fire from anyone charged.

"It would depend on the circumstances. We don't know if it was carelessness, on purpose or stupidity."

The NJFFS cannot bring charges, Hajna said, but it can participate in the investigation to determine the cause. The State Park Police are leading the investigation.

Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, said he's not confident investigators will find whoever was responsible.

"It's a huge area with countless campers at any given time. If they are miraculously found we will take appropriate action," wrote Della Fave in an email.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, the fire itself was "still smoldering and the containment lines are holding" said Hajna, adding that the fire had not spread. "It's looking very good."

He said at that point, responders were mostly monitoring the blaze and making sure the fire stays contained. The expected rainfall on Wednesday night and Thursday will go a long way to help put the fire out for good, he said.

"Periods of steady rain are likely throughout Thursday, with occasional heavier downpours," according to meteorologist Dan Zarrow. "The best chance for heavy rain looks to run from afternoon through early evening.

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