Hazard Mitigation Committee Looks At Fire Access Need in Musquash

The Londonderry Hazard Mitigation Committee discussed adding to a list of projects included in the Hazard Mitigation Plan access for the Fire Department into the Musquash Conservation Area and a radio propagation analysis to locate radio signal “dead zones.”

The Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission is assisting the Town with updating its Hazard Mitigation Plan, developed before disasters occur in an effort to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to human life and property.

Mitigation includes not only avoiding the development of vulnerable sections of the community, but also making existing development in hazard-prone areas safer. For example, a community could identify areas that are susceptible to damage from natural disasters and take steps to make those areas less vulnerable. It could also steer growth to less risky areas, according to a press release.

New Hampshire is subject to many types of natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, nor’easters, winter storms, earthquakes, tornadoes and wildfires.

“It’s a requirement of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to get pre-disaster funding to mitigate hazardous events,” said Gerald Coogan, a planning and development consultant working with the committee. “It’s a federal requirement to complete the Hazard Mitigation Plan every five years.”

Members of the committee discussed during their April 30 meeting the threat of floods and wildfires in Londonderry.

Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said creating an access road to a central location in the Musquash would not only make it easier for the Fire Department to bring a wildfire under control, but also to treat someone having a medical emergency on one of the trails.

“Out in the Musquash, if we have someone hurt, with just walking paths out there, it’s all by foot. We have 15 miles of trails out there,” he said, recommending the installation of a 10-foot-wide, managed pathway. “If we had something we could use to get equipment out there, we could get to a center point where we could work from. Right now, our center point is the end of Hickory Hill Drive, and then it’s all on foot.”

“We need something wider to get equipment out there,” said member Al Sypek, former fire chief for the Town. “There are more hikers having a medical issue or breaking a limb or spraining an ankle than wildfires. But wildfires start when you introduce people to the woods. The potential is there. In the early 1980s we had a 102-acre fire in the Musquash and we had to dig our own fire ponds out there. We were out there for days.”

Moving forward, Coogan directed the Committee to continue brainstorming projects they think should be added to the mitigation plan.

The committee’s last meeting is scheduled for May 28 at 9:30 a.m., and the public is invited to attend.

The Town is to send a letter to abutting towns notifying them the committee is working on the plan, and will ultimately send them a draft of the Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The committee hopes to have the draft plan completed by early July to submit to Homeland Security.

Once the plan is approved by FEMA, it will be presented to the Town Council for adoption.