I wish I was making that headline up:
A massive wildfire that has already burned thousands of acres in the Pinelands and forced the evacuation of residents in two towns likely started this afternoon when an F-16 fighter jet dropped flares as part of a maneuver over a gunnery range, New Jersey National Guard officials said tonight.
The fire, fueled by dry conditions and gusty winds, has already consumed more than 12,000 acres, almost 19 square miles, along the border of Ocean and Burlington counties. Several highways were closed and as many as 2,000 homes in Stafford and Barnegat townships, including several retirement communities, had been evacuated.
The Star-Ledger also reports:
The fire began on the Warren Grove Gunnery Range, a 9,400-acre area of hills, sandpits and scrub pines used for target practice by Air Force and Air National Guard units from around the East Coast.
National Guard officials said they were investigating how the flare, which in combat would cause a heat-seeking missile to miss an aircraft, was able to set off the blaze. Plante said investigators will have a better idea of the source of ignition once the fire is out.
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