Wednesday afternoon, May 7, proved to be a busy day for brush fires in town.
According to Londonderry Fire Battalion Chief Mike McQuillen, the Londonderry Fire Department responded to a brush fire at 16 Pine St. about 3:36 p.m. and to another one at 4:17 p.m. at Fieldstone Drive.
“The brush fire on Pine Street was about 100 feet by 200 feet when we arrived and was about a quarter of an acre when it was finally extinguished. It looks like it started by an illegal kindling in a burn barrel,” McQuillen said.
He said people will take yard refuse, leaves, thatch and twigs and burn them in a barrel.
“What happens is usually those barrels are old and rusted and have holes in them. People will sometimes punch holes in the bottom sides of the barrel to allow air to fuel the fire inside,” he said. “Embers can escape from those holes unnoticed and be taken by the wind and start a fire somewhere else. Also, when the fire is going inside the barrel, the seal that connects the bottom of the barrel to the sides expands and as it cools it contracts, and eventually the seal is broken and spaces form and you have the same situation with embers being able to escape.”
McQuillen also said that the bottom of the barrel gets very hot and can start a fire if placed on flammable ground.
“The fire at Fieldstone Drive was about 50 by 50 feet when we arrived and grew to about a half acre before it was extinguished,” he said. “That fire came in while crews were committed to fighting the brush fire on the southern end of town at Pine Street. We had a Litchfield Engine Company that was here for station coverage because we had all of our units down at the fire on Pine Street. So they responded with one of our lieutenants and they arrived on scene and found a fire in the woods. We were able to release a brush truck from the Pine Street fire to the Fieldstone Drive fire.”
McQuillen said the Fieldstone fire reached a lot of downed trees, large limbs and a couple of dead trees that were still standing, which made the fire more difficult to fight.
“We had to cut those up to get into the fire,” he said. “That was the result of the ice storms and snow storms that brought that stuff down and just gave the fire a heavy fuel load. The winds were blowing pretty good at that point and helped push the fire a little bit.”
McQuillen said the cause of the Fieldstone Drive fire is suspicious, as there was no power going out there and no indication of a previous burn pile.
“Crews were able to extinguish the fire in a little over an hour,” he said.