'Major' New Jersey forest fire closes roads; smoke from blaze reported in New York City

A "major" forest fire fueled by wind in southern New Jersey that has burned thousands of acres has sent billowing smoke far north enough that residents in New York are able to smell it.

The Ocean County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post the blaze was located in Burlington County just west of the Ocean County line.

"Smoke from this fire is blowing northward and can be seen in Toms River and points north," the agency said. "The Forest Fire Service, as well as many local fire departments, are on location."

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The blaze in Washington Township closed Route 72 in Barnegat between Routes 532 and 539 until further notice because of smoke, FOX29 reported.

The fire was burning through the Penn State Forest, which the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protected describes as "undeveloped wilderness" that attracts picnickers and hikers. The forest is part of the Pine Barrens, which contains several areas of pine and oak forest.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service said as of 9 a.m. on Sunday the blaze named the "Spring Hill Wildfire" had grown to 8,000 acres but was up to 50 percent containment.

"Crews have been burning-out through the night," the agency said. "Crews reported rapid rate of spread yesterday."

Fire crews are now working to contain the blaze and let it burn out. The fire is burning in an area of woodlands with few structures, and no evacuations have been ordered.

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The blaze was fueled by high winds in the area, which also sent the smoke northward. The smoke plume from the blaze was large enough to show up on radar, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS' Mount Holly Office reported that residents in northern and central New Jersey reported smelling smoke, and said the reason it was not dispersing was because of "a nocturnal inversion."

"If you've ever burned some food in the kitchen and then had to either open windows and/or turn on fans to disperse the smoke, there is a similar concept going on here," the NWS said. "When an inversion is in place (temperatures are increasing with height) then any air below the inversion are trapped below the inversion. As a result, the air near the surface can't mix with air higher up or be dispersed by the stronger winds above the inversion."

That applies for anyone who may be downstream of the fire, where the smoke is being pushed by winds.

Many took to Twitter on Sunday morning to show the clouds of smoke from the blaze and report smelling smoke upwards of 50 miles away, including on New York's Staten Island.

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The NWS said that conditions are expected to improve Sunday throughout the day as showers move through the area and a cold front shifts the winds offshore later in the day.