Wildfire in Lakewood was intentionally set, investigators say
The wind-whipped Lakewood wildfire that consumed 167 acres of forest on Sunday was intentionally set, investigators said Friday.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said no arrests have been made.
While nobody died from the fire, dozens of homes were put at risk and a firefighter remains hospitalized nearly a week later after going into cardiac arrest.
"Numerous residences and commercial properties were damaged and hundreds of people were evacuated. It is only by the grace of God that no one was killed," Billhimer said Friday.
The fire started in the area of Cedarbridge Avenue and Airport Road in Lakewood and was first spotted around 1:15 p.m. He did not explain what investigators found that led them to their conclusion.
Wind gusts of over 20 mph quickly spread the fire's embers across the Garden State Parkway.
A Red Flag Warning was in effect at the time of the fire for gusty winds and dry air that combined to create favorable conditions for rapid spread of wildfires.
The state Forest Fire Service said the area had not had a fire in nearly 40 years and the area was thick with growth that also helped fuel the fire.
Authorities evacuated 29 homes in Brick Lake Park and a fire started on the roof of the Lowes store on Route 70, according to Brick Mayor John Ducey.
Three homeless people living in the woods were rescued from the fire, according to the prosecutor.
The Parkway was closed in both directions through the area of the fire along with Route 70.
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service firefighter remains hospitalized in stable condition at Hackensack Meridian Ocean Medical Center in Brick. The East Dover Fire Company said that the firefighter also worked with their department and was defending the Lakewood Cogen Plant at the time of the cardiac arrest.
Billhimer asked anyone with information about the fire to call his office at 732-929-2027 X3953.