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Fire in New Jersey Pine Barrens forces evacuation of 250 people

(Reuters) - A wind-whipped brushfire in New Jersey's scenic Pine Barrens in Ocean County threatened roughly 50 homes on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of 250 people, the New Jersey Fire Service said.

Firefighters hauling hoses aimed a steady stream of water at the flames consuming dry growth in a forested area adjacent to a residential section near Berkeley Township, New Jersey.

Thick smoke hung over the trees and obscured visibility in the neighborhood where firefighters earlier in the day had urged residents to turn on their lawn sprinklers because of dry conditions.

Larry Hijna, a spokesman for the New Jersey Fire Service said the fire had scorched more than 200 acres but that the threat to homes was diminishing.

"The advancing part, they've been able to put out," Hijna said.

The blaze was one of two forest fires burning in New Jersey. A second fire in Cumberland County has burned approximately 1,500 acres.

"It's very dry, windy. There's a lot of leaves, twigs and brush on the ground. That stuff acts as tinder and catches fire very easily," Hijna said.

(Reporting by Dan Kelley in Philadelphia; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Osterman)