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October 30, 2013

High fire danger keeps firefighters on alert

Several reported in N.H. towns

Strong winds, falling leaves and unusually dry weather have sparked concern about fast-moving brush fires breaking out in Southern New Hampshire.

Those concerns have become a reality for some local fire departments, including Windham, Derry and Pelham.

Crews from several towns helped Windham firefighters battle a stubborn brush fire that burned about an acre of woods off Bear Hill Road yesterday and Monday.

Approximately a dozen firefighters helped keep the fire in check for nearly four hours Monday night. A crew of another dozen firefighters returned about 8:30 a.m. yesterday to hose down and dig up hot spots for an additional four hours, Windham Fire Chief Thomas McPherson said.

“It just became very labor intensive,” he said.

Several days without rain — combined with high winds and dried-out, falling leaves — are to blame, McPherson said.

“The concern for us is the dryness,” he said. “The leaves are coming down and it just adds to the fuel load.”

The fire Monday, which broke out about 4 p.m., spread beneath the ground, so it had to be attacked with hoses, shovels and rakes to prevent it from traveling farther, McPherson said.

After the fire was under control and it became dark, firefighters left for the night, planning to check on it yesterday morning. But shortly before firefighters arrived, a neighbor reported seeing smoke in the woods.

Firefighters from Londonderry, Pelham, Salem and Derry helped fight the fire or cover Windham’s station over the two-day period.

It was just one of many brush fires reported in New Hampshire’s southern tier since last week, according to Capt. John Dodge, regional forest ranger for the state Division of Forests and Lands.

“It’s been high fire danger through this week and last week,” Dodge said. “Out of 10 days, eight of them have been high fire danger.”

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