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Five Departments Respond to Hartland Brush Fire

A Windsor firefighter pauses to scan for parts of the forest floor that have reignited after Hartford, WIndsor, and Lebanon fire departments responded to a large brushfire on the Hartland/Hartford line on November 12, 2012. 
Valley News - Sarah Priestap

A Windsor firefighter pauses to scan for parts of the forest floor that have reignited after Hartford, WIndsor, and Lebanon fire departments responded to a large brushfire on the Hartland/Hartford line on November 12, 2012. Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

Crews from five fire departments yesterday managed to control a large brush fire burning on a ridge off Route 5 before nightfall, despite rough terrain and logistical challenges.

At the base of the ridge, Hartford Fire Chief Steve Locke had set up a staging area in a residential driveway on Maxham Drive to ferry supplies to the roughly 30 firefighters on the scene. He had dispatched three all-terrain vehicles over a single-lane dirt access road to reach the responders who were fighting on two flanks to control the fire, the cause of which is still under investigation.

“It seems so small from here,” Locke said as he gazed up at the fire, which he estimated to be covering an area of about three acres. “It’s tough to manage when you have no idea where to send folks.”

On a dry-erase board propped up in the trunk of his SUV, Locke tracked the responder teams the Hartland, Hartford, West Windsor, Windsor, and Lebanon fire departments.

Firefighters walked the fire’s perimeter, marking hazardous trees to be cut down by two-person chain saw crews and making sure the fire didn’t spread by dousing water on flames from backpacks and using industrial-strength rakes to corral burning coals.

“They’re raking it out, and raking it back in,” said Scott Bowers, assistant chief of the Hartland Fire Department. “It’s just a lot of hard work.”

Bowers said it was unusual to have a large-scale brush fire this late in the season, but that it could have been worse.

“Thank God the wind isn’t blowing,” Locke said. “Otherwise, it would have been more of a problem.”

Although the fire was contained by nightfall yesterday, Locke said they would probably need to check back in the morning, despite forecasts of rain last night.

Locke said he first heard about the fire from a member of his department, who noticed smoke coming off the hill as he was driving on Route 5.

“I asked him to come up here and just take a quick peek, and that’s when he called back,” he said. “Just due to the terrain, we automatically jumped to a second alarm to bring in more manpower.”

Dan Richardson, who lives at the base of Maxham Drive, said he came home from work when he heard about the fire on the ridgeline just west of his back yard. He said he was a little nervous about what could have happened to his property, but he didn’t mind losing a few trees, especially given the recent storm activity.

“I’d clear-cut the hill if I had to,” Richardson said.

Rose Maxham, who lives up the street, also seemed less than concerned.

“It’s not burning up the trees or anything,” she said. “Just ground fire.”

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

CLARIFICATION

This story has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following clarification ran in the Wednesday, Nov. 14 edition of the Valley News:

The Hartford fire chief is Steve Locke. A story in yesterday’s Valley News gave an incorrect first name for Locke.