NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 24, 2012

Region on fire alert

Dry, warm conditions fuel concern over ignited brush

The relatively snowless winter, followed by unseasonable warmth the past two weeks, has the region's firefighters on alert to the early potential for brush fires.

Both Georgetown and Seabrook firefighters already have donned gear this season to respond to brush fires.

Thursday night around 6, Georgetown firefighters, with the assistance of the Byfield Fire Department, responded to a brush fire in the area of the power lines off Thurlow Street. Before it was knocked down, the fire consumed an acre of vegetation, but it could have been worse.

Those who have fought brush fires say their concern over this season's threat comes from experience.

"They're very labor intensive. One of the biggest problems is getting to them, because they're usually out in the boonies," Seabrook fire Chief Jeff Brown said. "They're usually multi-municipal aid events. Most of the time, we drive in as far as we can, but we have to lay (hoses) by hand (from pumper trucks) to where the fires are."

Brown said Seabrook has already responded to a couple of small brush fires, one behind the ball park and also a mulch fire at Market Basket South.

"This is happening much earlier this year," he said.

Notoriously hard to put out, brush fires can appear to be extinguished in one area, then pop up in a spot 100 feet away, Brown said. That's because they travel underground, burning roots and peat, he said.

"The only thing that you can do is really soak the ground," Brown said.

Granite State officials are so concerned over the fire dangers that the N.H. Division of Forests and Lands sent out an alert. Officials say that as long as the warm, dry weather continues and people spend more time outdoors, brush fires may become more numerous.

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