Monday, April 21, 2008

Early end called to burning season

By Amy Carr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Article Last Updated: 04/21/2008 04:28:33 AM EDT

Officials have declared an early end to burning season, following a series of brush fires, one of which scorched more than 200 acres over the weekend.
The largest blaze began Saturday at 122 Silver St. in Lanesborough when burning yard waste coupled with dry, windy conditions caused a brush fire that evolved into a forest fire that stretched almost two miles.

The incident sparked the decision to halt burning season, which officially ends April 30.

"Until we get rain, there will be no more burning," said Lanesborough Fire Chief Charles Durfee, who worked with more than 120 firefighters from three states to battle the blaze, which was 80 percent contained last night. "This is the biggest brush fire we've had in over 20 years. A Department of Conservation and Recreation guy told me yesterday that 375 acres were burned in the whole state yesterday, and 200 of them were in Lanesborough."

Four brush fires in Pittsfield Saturday have prompted the city to stop issuing burning permits. The fire department said yesterday the ban will persist on a day-to-day basis until weather conditions improve.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is



asking local municipalities across the commonwealth to stop issuing open burning permits immediately. Burning season typically extends until the end of April, but this year, warm, dry and moderately windy weather, coupled with dry forest fuel, has resulted in a high fire danger throughout the state.
The DCR also is urging residents to be extremely careful with cigarette smoking and disposal of cigarettes, campfires, and cooking over fires of any sort, which can lead to brush fires.

Yesterday, small brush fires were reported in Pittsfield and Adams, while New York crews worked to battle a 3,000-acre brush fire in Minnewaska State Park on the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County.

According to the DCR, 189 fires throughout Massachusetts burned more than 375 acres Saturday, some threatening nearby private homes and property.

Durfee said Lanesborough residents were fortunate to have winds blowing north over the weekend.

"It was a huge blessing to have the wind blowing up hill," he said yesterday, standing outside the Silver Street residence. "You can see a house nearby this one and the wind took it right up the hill into open space."

Maragret Carnevale, DCR district fire patrolman for Berkshire County, said brush fires in open space can be beneficial.

"Fire is a tool they use across the U.S. to clean up different areas," she said. "(The Lanesborough) area will be greener. The underbrush will be knocked down and add to the soil so big trees can be healthier. So, it's not all a bad thing."

To reach Amy Carr:, (413) 496-6233.

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