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April 10, 2013

Wind fuels stubborn brush fire

High-pressure gas line buried under marsh not in danger

METHUEN — Firefighters and state forest fire officials yesterday tamped down a stubborn brush fire in a marshy part of the city through breezy conditions that constantly kicked up flames.

A call came in to the fire department at about 3 p.m., a fire official said, and about a dozen firefighters and two officers responded to reports of flames in a marshy area between Meghan’s Way and Elane Way off Howe Street.

Assistant Fire Chief Mike Hamel, who responded to the call, said his crews had to walk the area several times, putting out clumps of grass and smoking deadwood while keeping an eye out for flames that broke out when the wind picked up.

“It’s time and labor intensive,” Hamel said.

Methuen firefighters worked from properties on both Elane Way and Meghan’s Way. Flames in places were several feet high, but firefighters had them knocked down within an hour and nearby houses did not appear to be in danger. A state Forest Fire Control squad based in Essex County responded as well, cutting down extinguished deadwood.

A high-pressure gas line runs under that area, but state and local fire officials said it is buried deep enough to not be a concern.

Hamel said the marshy area was a mixed blessing. The water and patches of ice helped stop the spread of the fire, but trucks easily got bogged down in the soft soil and peat moss.

A Methuen Fire pickup had to be pulled out by another department pickup, and the Forest Fire Control men had to use their pickup’s winch to pull the truck out after its rear wheels sunk into the earth.

Douglas Hallbauer, who lives on Meghan’s Way, said he was meeting a friend outside his house for Manhattans and cigars when the friend told him about the fire. He called the fire department to report the blaze.

“You could see the flames about 250 feet down (toward the marsh),” Hallbauer said.

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