Pownal Fire Under InvestigationBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, April 20, 2006
Pownal, Vt. - The cause of an April 20 afternoon brush fire that charred between four and five acres owned by the Chamay family of Carpenter Hill Road is under investigation, said town Fire Warden and Pownal Protective Fire Association Chief Craig O'Dell.
|Pownal Valley Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Joel Howard|
Firefighters who battled the blaze came upon a tent erected on the property, and the fire may have started near the campsite, said Pownal Valley Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Joel Howard.
The tent was not put up by the property owners, fire officials said.
Howard said that about 50 firefighters assisted in one manner or another during the fire. Firefighters from the Pownal Valley Volunteer Fire Department, the Pownal Protective Fire Association, the Bennington [Vt.] Rural Volunteer Fire Department and the Williamstown [Mass.] Volunteer Fire Department worked to extinguish the blaze, and Hoosick [N.Y.] Volunteer Fire Department members provided standby manpower at the PPFA Route 346 fire house.
Heat Index "Pretty Freaking High"
Howard was among the firefighters who hiked over rugged terrain to first locate and then put out the flames.
"The heat index around the fire was pretty freaking high," Howard said. "You had to have at least eight to ten feet between you and the fire to dig a line."
Much Manual Labor
Howard explained that "digging a line" was the first assault firefighters launched against the blaze and involved using tools to create a two-foot wide perimeter around the burning acreage that served as a barrier against any fire spread. Forestry rakes and Indian pumps were used to carve out the barrier, and the work was hot manual labor, he said.
Firefighters Jeff Rogers and Jeff Miller hold a forestry broom and an Indian pump that were used to battle an April 20 brush fire in Pownal.
Chainsaws were used to cut down trees that had ignited and were burning; the action helped keep flames from destroying additional property, he said.
"The fire did get into the pines and we took down some trees," he said.
Flames burned in an area that hosts numerous high-voltage power lines, which added to the potential danger of the situation.
Numerous Vehicles At Scene
Six all-terrain vehicles were used to transport water, tools, and some firefighters to and from the fire scene. The vehicles were also in place in case of firefighter injury as a means of transporting an injured person to safety. No injuries were reported at the scene, Howard said.
Four fire companies provided nine trucks that were stationed along Carpenter Hill and Roizin roads. All Pownal Valley fire trucks, two tanker trucks and a brush truck from the PPFA, a Williamstown fire department brush truck and a Bennington Rural fire department brush truck were brought to the fire scene.
"A Very Nice Job"
Firefighters did a very good job of limiting fire damage, said O'Dell and Howard.
"They did a nice job, a very nice job," O'Dell said.
"It was an excellent job from all the firefighters," said Howard.
Firefighters were called at 1:35 p.m. and had the fire under control within about an hour and a half, Howard said. Once the fire was controlled, three separate firefighting crews were sent to walk the fire perimeter and extinguish any "hot spots" [areas likely to re-ignite].
Once the flames were put out, many firefighters faced an additional hour-and-a-half clean-up that included replacing tools, re-outfitting fire trucks, cleaning tools and gear, washing trucks, and replenishing vehicle fuel supplies.
Hoosick, N.Y. volunteer firefighters provided standby manpower at the Pownal Protective Fire Association fire house.
Red Flag Conditions
Howard and O'Dell agreed that the situation could have caused devastation.
"This had the potential to be pretty bad," Howard said. "If that wind had picked up any...."
"If we had the wind today that we had yesterday, we'd have had a bad situation," said O'Dell.
O'Dell said that the town is under "red flag" conditions, which means no outdoor burning of any kind is permitted until further notice. Warm weather coupled with extremely dry ground - much of which is covered with dead, crinkled leaves and brush- have turned the earth into a tinderbox.
"No burn permits will be issued until further notice," O'Dell said.
A separate story titled "Pownal Fire Burns Multiple Acres" with additional information is posted on iberkshires.com.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-823-9367.