MANCHESTER — Firefighters were still working Monday to put out a brush fire that burned nearly 500 acres in Ocean County on Sunday.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Bob Considine said the fire was 80 percent contained and that the cleanup and burnout of the fire would be completed on Monday.

The fire created thick smoke that closed down Route 539 through Manchester and Barnegat for most of Sunday afternoon. The smoke could be seen and smelled in much of southern Ocean County. Forty-two Forest Fire Service personnel worked on the fire on Sunday.

The cause of Sunday's fire remains under investigation but the forest fire danger isn't all that high, according to meteorologist Dan Zarrow.

"Soil moisture should still be OK, given our snowpack that only melted a couple days ago. Winds will be relatively light, with gusts to 15 or maybe 20 mph. That doesn't mean a fire can't get started and grow out of control, but conditions could be far worse at this point of the year," he said.

The DEP has more controlled burns scheduled for Monday that could cause more smoke.

  • Franklin Parker Preserve, Chatsworth
  • Warren Grove Range, Stafford
  • Brendan Byrne State Forest
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix
  • Allaire State Park, Wall
  • Lake Shenandoah, Lakewood

The burns are intended to burn away the buildup of undergrowth, fallen trees and branches, leaves, pine needles and other debris on forest floors that can fuel a fire.

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