Brush fire burns 7 acres near Crystal Springs park

By daniel walsh

EAST BRUNSWICK — A brush fire tore through nearly 10 acres of a wooded area adjacent to the Crystal Springs Aquatic Center last Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters responded to the 911 call at 1:54 p.m. and found the fire already spreading quickly in heavy winds. Fifty firefighters from eight local companies put out the fire in about an hour.

Brookview Fire Company Chief Kevin Keane said that a shift in the winds helped firefighters contain the blaze just 200 feet from the back yards of several homes on Valley Forge Drive.

"We had the fire engines lined up in front of the houses," Keane said. "The wind changed and turned the fire back. The fire really put itself out."

Keane said the fire spread quickly throughout the area with the help of high winds and dry leaves.

Initial reports said the fire had spread through 15 acres of the site, but Keane it was closer to seven to 10 acres. Much of the area, is lined with hiking trails and was burned rather badly.

Most of the damage remained close to the ground, but flames climbed as high as 15 feet along some of the trees, he said.

"The wind took it, and the dry leaves on the ground helped spread it," Keane said.

Police said the first people to call 911 alerted officials after seeing the smoke from Route 18 and Thompson Park. Keane said there were reports of smoke from the fire being seen as far away as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York.

"When we arrived, the fire was spreading very quickly," Keane said. "The whole area was covered with smoke."

Firefighters from North Brunswick, Milltown, Helmetta, and South River aided in controlling the fire while the South Amboy Fire Department remained on standby. The firefighters also had help from the New Jersey Forest Service and East Brunswick and county emergency services. They used 11 fire engines and seven brush trucks to combat the fire.

In addition, paramedics were on hand, but police reported no injuries caused by the fire.

Fire officials are unsure as to the cause of the fire and are still investigating.

"It could have come from something as small as a cigarette," Keane said.