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Firefighters are spending a second day battling a forest fire on East Mountain.
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Firefighters use leave blowers to clear out a fire line that will stop the spread of the flames.
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Small pockets of flames could be seen throughout the woods on East Mountain on Saturday morning.
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Shovels and rakes not hoses were essential tools in bringing the brush fire under control.
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Wayne McLain of the East Mountain Sportsman's Club spent Saturday morning bringing firefighters and supplies up the side of the mountain on his all-terrain vehicle.
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Firefighters from Williamstown, New Ashford, Windsor, Hancock, Florida, Clarksburg and Pownal, Vt., joined the action on Saturday.
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Some of the food and drinks donated to help firefighters battling the blaze.
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Williamstown Fire Warden Rick Daniels, right, surveys the scene.
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Williamstown Fire Chief Craig Pedercini, center, addresses firefighters before they head into the woods early Saturday morning.
Updated May 15, 2021 05:20PM

UPDATE: Williamstown Forest Fire Fight to Continue into Sunday

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
Print Story | Email Story
UPDATE:
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Fire officials pulled crews off East Mountain mid-afternoon on Saturday when it became clear that shifting winds were creating hazardous conditions and the battle against a brush fire deep in the woods would go into at least a third day.
 
"The wind was picking up up there very much," Williamstown Fire Chief Craig Pedercini said. "There were beyond manageable wind conditions, and that just intensified the fire.
 
"Unfortunately, in unsafe conditions, we pull people out. It's not worth getting hurt for this."
 
The brush fires, which appear to be contained to the forest floor and are more than a mile into the woods from any buildings, first cropped up on Friday evening. Forty firefighters from departments throughout the region were on site early Saturday morning to continue the attack that started the night before.
 
Pedercini said late Saturday afternoon it is unknown where the firefighters will stage their base on Sunday morning. Although the fire appeared to advance further to the east, toward Clarksburg State Forest, on Saturday morning, reports late Saturday indicated it might be changing directions again.
 
"The way that's traveling right now in an easterly direction, we are thinking about establishing ourselves in, potentially, Stamford [Vt.]," Pedercini said. "I think some of us are going to get up there this evening and try to do some recon and seewhat it looks like.
 
"We very well, because of the way the wind's turning, it could turn this around. There have been some reports it may be turning this way, but we could have both. Right now, we're going to play this by ear."
 
Pedericini said that he and other fire chiefs and forest wardens from throughout the area will decide on their plan of attack on Sunday morning. He also said the fire could drag into a fourth day on Monday.
 
According to the website Weather.com, no precipitation is forecast for Williamstown until at least Monday, when there is a chance for "isolated thunderstorms" in the afternoon.
 
Sunday could see some artificial precipitation. Pedercini said he is hoping to get an aerial water drop on the third day of the fire. Either the State Police or the National Guard could provide that support, he said.
 
Pedercini said that besides the wind, the terrain itself presents logistical challenges for getting firefighters to hot spots.
 
"Just because you can hike it from the bottom of Pine Cobble or all these other trails, doesn't always mean that that's where the fire is," he said. "And even if it were to start near by a trail, that doesn't mean that's where you're going to find it. It can be a mile or two away by that time."
 
 
Original story posted at 1 p.m. Saturday:
 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — At midday Saturday, it was unclear whether the fight against a brush fire deep in the woods on East Mountain would continue into a third day.
 
Just after 10 a.m. on Saturday, a State Police helicopter alerted fire officials on the ground to another front in the blaze which broke out on Friday evening.
 
Fire personnel from Williamstown, New Ashford, Windsor, Hancock, Florida, Clarksburg and Pownal, Vt., were on site Saturday morning.
 
Williamstown Fire Chief Craig Pedercini reported that 40 firefighters from the various departments were fighting the fire on at least two fronts mid-morning.
 
The crews arrived at 6 a.m. for a briefing and were dispatched into the woods by 6:50, according to Williamstown Forest Warden Rick Daniels.
 
Most of the fire is on the property of the East Mountain Sportsman's Club, though unconfirmed reports indicated it may have started farther to the north and west.
 
Wayne McLain, 65, is the club's vice president and grew up on a farm near the club's property. He said he could not remember another fire on the club's land.
 
By 9:30 Saturday morning, McClain was making his fourth trip of more than a mile from the firefighters' basecamp, uphill over rocky terrain in his all-terrain vehicle.
 
No cause of the fire has been identified or likely will be until the fires is extinguished. Pedercini also declined to hazard a guess at the area covered by the blaze when asked on Saturday morning.
 
A ride up the side of the mountain in McLain's ATV revealed acres of charred leaves and brush, but it appeared that there was no real damage to the more mature trees in the woodlot. McLain marveled at the way the fire appeared the jump the steep, rocky trail he drove, with blackened, ashy floor on either side of a narrow path still covered with brown fallen leaves.
 
His was one of several vehicles that were the only practical means to get men, women and equipment into fire zone.
 
Although each ATV could carry a small quantity of water, water was not the principal tool in the battle to contain the blaze, Daniels explained.
 
"When a call comes in, we try to direct attack," he said. "We took water. We had the fire truck up there pumping and trying to stop it quickly. Today, we have used no water. It's all hand tools. When you go to mop up inside and you split logs open, then we'll use water again.
 
"But right now, you have to cut a line so the fire burns to the line. Water is just useless today."
 
Instead, the firefighters went into battle with axes, rakes, shovels, chainsaws and leaf blowers.
 
"Modern technology," Daniels said. "It's been out for about 10 years or so, at least we saw it five or 10 years ago, so we bought some blowers. That's how we're cutting the line. It's the quickest way to get all that leaf litter off.
 
"If it's a deep fire, they're going to cut into the ground, get the roots and things out. We've done both today. If it's not a deep fire, it's all surface, leaf litter."
 
Daniels said changing wind directions have presented additional challenges to firefighters, but Friday night's weather helped keep the blaze from growing after the firefighters came down when darkness fell.
 
"It pretty much stayed where it was," Daniels said. "It was burning the same place from where we looked from downtown. It went up over one ridge. Nighttime, it always slows down. It's now starting to pick up."
 
At the base camp, the firefighters were able to take brief breaks and enjoy donated food and drinks from sources like Williams College, the Spring Street Market and Cafe and local residents who answered the call on social media Friday night to contribute to the effort.

Tags: forest fire,   

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Williamstown Fire District Looks at Recruitment Need

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown Fire District needs to work on the message it conveys to potential recruits and consider new models for service to make it a more attractive option for residents.
 
That was part of the message the Prudential Committee received last week from the community advisory committee the committee established last year.
 
Jeffrey Thomas, who chairs the advisory group, dropped by the Prudential Committee''s first in-person meeting since before the pandemic to share some input from his group.
 
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