MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP, N.J. (PIX11) – Still in the fight, firefighters look to end a wildfire spanning nearly 4,000 acres of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.

The fire broke out Tuesday evening near Route 539 in Manchester Township, according to the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department

At its peak, the fire spanned 3,529 acres, officials said during a briefing Wednesday morning. Firefighters faced 200-foot-tall flames in some spots.

According to officials, the fire moved fast at 4.5 mph. Ash rained down upon far reaches of Ocean County, all the way to the shore.

“This definitely had high potential to be extremely catastrophic,” said Greg McLaughlin, Chief of the NJ Forest Fire Service. 

“This fire exhibited extreme fire behavior,” said John Cecil, Assistant Commissioner of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. “We saw a wall of fire, 200-foot flames, raining fire embers. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but this was a severe situation that these guys and gals managed to keep in place and protect lives and property, and for that, we can’t thank them enough.”

On Wednesday, those firefighters did not let up, driving around in brush fire apparatus, dampening hot spots.

The cause is still being investigated.

“The fire weather was severe yesterday due to low humidity, strong winds and high temperatures,” said Trevor Rainer of the NJ Forest Fire Service.

Authorities issued a restriction on campfires and agricultural burning Wednesday. The warmer weather, low humidity, and breezy winds pose an increased risk of brush fires that can quickly spread.

While officials said the fire is now 60% contained, things aren’t going to suddenly get easier.

The New Jersey Air National Guard is providing two Blackhawk helicopters to help with water drops.

“We aren’t out of the woods yet,” said Rainer. “We’re in a dry stretch here until Friday. They’re talking maybe rain this weekend, but not much.”

AIR11 captured the fire getting dangerously close to property lines. Around 175 homes were evacuated, but thanks to the quick work of first responders, officials gave everyone the all-clear to go back home early Wednesday.

“Without those efforts from the volunteer and all career services, it could have been a lot worse,” said Chief Robert Dolan of the Manchester Township Police Department.