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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Pownal Fire Burns Multiple Acres

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bennington, Vt. Fire Warden Walt Clark and Pownal Valley fire department Chief Jerrod Lillie were among those who battled a brushfire on April 20.
Pownal, Vt. - A tri-state contingent of over two dozen firefighters from five fire companies battled or provided manpower against a blazing brush fire during the April 20 afternoon.

Firefighters from the Pownal Protective Fire Association, Pownal Valley Volunteer Fire Department, the Williamstown [Mass.] Volunteer Fire Department and the Bennington, Vt. Rural Volunteer Fire Department faced rugged terrain, warm, dry weather conditions, and a breeze that played havoc with flames for over four hours. Firefighters with the Hoosick [N.Y.]Volunteer Fire Department traveled to the Pownal Protective Fire Association Route 346 fire house to provide standby manpower.


Smoke from the blaze was visible from as far away as Route 7.
Preliminary estimates are that as much as five acres of wooded and open space may have been burned.

The main fire was extinguished by about 4:15 p.m. but numerous firefighters remained imbedded within a rocky, ledge-covered region between Carpenter Hill Road and Route 7 to keep water on a slew of "hot spots" that threatened to re-ignite the tinder-dry ground.

Three crews of multiple firefighters accessed the fire from locations on Carpenter Hill and Roizin roads. Many firefighters hiked a minimum of one mile to reach the flames while outfitted in full firefighter protective clothing and with Indian water pumps, portable water pumps, rakes, and shovels in hand. Chainsaws and all-terrain vehicles, and small four-wheel drive vehicles known as "brush trucks" were used to fight the fire.

Brush trucks, all-terrain vehicles, and fire trucks were at a Carpenter Hill Road firefighter staging area.


A small pond was discovered in the vicinity of the fire and firefighters used the pond as a water source.

Fluids were hauled in to the fire site.

"One of the first things we called for was water and Gatorade," said Pownal Valley fire department Chief Jerrod Lillie. "They [firefighters] had quite a hike just to get to the fire, and then we had to get the tools out to them so they could fight it. It was exhausting just getting to it and getting the stuff out there."

A breeze caused the fire to "jump" from spot to spot; firefighters were forced to chase the flames as they spread from one point to another. At some locations, flames crept along rocky ledges; firefighters attacked the flames from above and below the ledge.


Pownal Valley firefighter Casey Mattison worked as part of a firefighting team equipped with a rake and a portable water pump.
A team strategy was also used to battle the blaze, with firefighting pairs armed with rakes and Indian pumps. As one firefighter raked, the other hosed the area with water.

Town Fire Warden and PPFA fire Chief Craig O'Dell and additional firefighters were still at the scene and unavailable for comment as of 4:30 p.m..

The fire was reported at about 1:30 p.m., just moments after Pownal Valley fire department Capt. Dwayne Metcalfe had finished up duties associated with another emergency call on Route 346 in North Pownal.

A tractor-trailer truck snagged live electrical lines and caused the lines to fall to the road. Central Vermont Public Services workers were called to the scene and repaired the damage, Metcalfe said.

Pownal Valley firefighter Stanley Wilkenson was among the firefighters who hiked in and out of the fire scene.


Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.

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