An out-of-control wildfire continued to blaze through a heavily forested part of New Jersey on Sunday, fire officials said, hours after a small airplane had crashed in the area, reportedly killing at least one person.
It was not immediately clear whether the crash and the fire were connected, with local authorities saying Sunday that a timeline of the weekend’s events was still in the process of being pieced together.
Firefighters remained on the scene near Robert J. Miller Airpark in Lacey Township on Sunday evening, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said in a statement. While the fire had initially burned through 300 acres, by the evening, “the wildfire has grown to 600 acres and is 50% contained,” the agency said.
At least 25 structures were threatened, though no injuries or deaths were immediately reported. The Lacey Township Police Department said that no evacuations in the area had been ordered as of Sunday afternoon.
The crash, which involved a single-engine Cirrus SR22, was reported around a small airpark in a neighboring township just after 10 p.m., according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The Federal Aviation Authority previously said the crash had occurred around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, with a local official later telling NJ.com that emergency responders had been delayed in locating the plane, which went down in an isolated area.
Only the pilot was aboard the craft, which took off from Farmingdale, New Jersey, according to the FAA. Sources familiar with the incident told both News12 and NBC10 that at least one person had been killed in the crash.
Both the FAA and NTSB are investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash.
— Mark Crudele (@MarkCrudele) September 3, 2023
The fire broke out not far from a local animal sanctuary, the Popcorn Park Animal Refuge. The organization said on Facebook that all its animals were “safe and sound,” but that the sanctuary was closed to the public for the day because of the fire.
Lacey Township is a municipality on the Jersey Shore with a population of approximately 29,000. The fire there is the 14th such blaze reported in New Jersey this year.