NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 7, 2013

Brush fires hit in region

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — This spring’s dry conditions have caused a rash of warnings about potential brush fires, and yesterday Amesbury experienced just such a fire — combined with a brief power outage and a highway auto accident.

A brush fire, fueled by high winds, lapped onto Interstate 495 north near Pender Farm yesterday afternoon, stalling traffic for half a mile and precipitating a two-car collision on the southbound side.

Local, Merrimac and Salisbury firefighters battled the brush fire, centered underneath high power lines that stretched over the highway, for about an hour before units began clearing the scene. At one point, flames scorched a portion of the median between the highway, adding further difficulty for firefighters.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Middle Road residents watching the proceeding from the top of a grassy hill near the highway said they heard a transformer blow near the power wires. Indeed, Amesbury residents experienced a momentary power outage around the same time firefighters responded to the scene around 2 p.m. The outage appeared to play havoc with traffic lights on Route 110 at Main Street, as they went into a default blinking pattern and snarled traffic.

Reached later in the afternoon, an Amesbury firefighter said it was too early to tell whether a blown transformer caused the fire, saying the matter was still under investigation. Newburyport firefighters and an Atlantic ambulance crew covered the Amesbury fire station during the event, the fire official added.

As firefighters were battling the brush fire, two cars traveling southbound, a black Audi sedan and a golden Chevy SUV, collided. Drivers of both vehicles were seen walking around afterward seemingly uninjured. A state trooper took statements from both drivers before a tow truck began removing the vehicles. Middle Road residents said visibility was not an issue in regard to the crash despite heavy smoke.

State troopers closed off the far right travel lane of the northbound side of the highway during the fire and Amesbury firetrucks were on the highway and on nearby Pond Hill Road.

Yesterday the National Weather Service post a red flag warning due to “critical fire weather conditions,” caused by low humidity, dry conditions and gusty winds.

The warning covers most of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. At least five other brush fires were reported in the state over the weekend — in Boston, Kingston, Saugus, Bridgewater and Halifax.