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Dozens of residents evacuated as rare wildfire in New Jersey damages homes

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The fire damaged dozens of homes and at least two mixed-use buildings have been destroyed by fire, but “there has been no substantial damage.” New Jersey Forest Fire Service he said on a late Sunday night.

Residents who were evacuated Sunday night from Brick Township were able to return home from 7 p.m., according to the message.

As the fire engulfed the Jackson and Brick Township area, about 50 miles east of Philadelphia, people who had not yet been evacuated Sunday afternoon began preparing to leave the area in case the fire spread further, according to NJ.com.

“I had never seen anything like it,” said Roni Anderson, who said he saw a helicopter fly over the fire Sunday afternoon. NJ.com.

Anderson said her husband decided to go home from work in case they had to evacuate, but she couldn’t even get to the neighborhood because of the fire, according to NJ.com.

Instead, she told the publication, her husband parked his car in a store and drove home. The couple packed their important documents and pictures in another care to prepare for evacuation.

The cause of the fire is being investigated

The fire was first reported around 1:30 p.m. in Lakewood Township. Powered by strong winds, the flames erupted at Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Forest Fire Service spokeswoman Maris Gabliks said during a news conference Sunday.

Parts of the park remained closed in the early hours of Monday morning as firefighters continued to fight the blaze, in tweet of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, he said.

Although the source of the fire has been identified, the cause is still being investigated, said an update published in the New Jersey Forest Fire Service. The agency said the cause did not come from a prescribed burn.

Officials said in the update that two mixed-use buildings were destroyed and that some ancillary structures such as sheds were affected in the residential area.

As of Sunday night, the flame had at least 50 percent content, Gabliks told reporters during the press conference.

Firefighters are expected to remain in the area fighting the flames overnight to contain the fire completely.

Large forest fires are rare in New Jersey

The National Meteorological Service issued a Red flag warning and advising winds in the area on Sunday afternoon, warning of “critical fire weather conditions” due to strong winds of up to 50 mph and low relative humidity.

The warning and wind warning remain in effect until 5pm and midnight on Monday, respectively.

“Larger forest fires are uncommon or rare for New Zealand,” CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said. A combination of very low humidity and warm temperatures in the area could have contributed to the spread.

“We have extremely strong winds with little humidity that help fire growth, but also hinder the ability of firefighters to contain and control fire,” Gabliks said.

CNN’s Ganesh Setty, Joe Sutton and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.

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