New details are coming to light about the brush fire that swept through Middletown this week.
The fire initially started from a downed power line around 1 in the afternoon Tuesday. A second brush fire that ignited early Wednesday is under investigation.
Fire officials said tactic and teamwork prevented this disaster from being much worse.
“We had, which is for us, a routine call of a tree on a wire down on River Road,” said Chief James Trzaski of the South Fire District of Middletown. “Crews got on scene, they noticed that the live wire was on the ground, and a fire was starting. And it was nothing exceptional until the wind kicked up.”
Brisk wind with dry condition, is what fire officials say caused the brush fire to consume nearly 200 acres.
"We were actually able to contain it to just under 200. We were assuming that it was going to burn even further,” Trzaski said. “But having those partnerships in place early on certainly saved a lot of this forest.”
South Fire District of Middletown responded to the scene first Tuesday, then contacted the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to rally more resources.
Newly-passed legislation enabled DEEP to recruit more crews from neighboring areas.
“They were able to put twice as many people on the ground here,” Trzaski said.
More than 100 firefighters from 10 departments responded. However, shortly after crews contained the initial brush fire around midnight, a second started south of Freeman Road in the early hours of Wednesday.
“After a further investigation, it's not quite determined whether that fire was intentionally set, or if it could have been what we call a snag from some type of embers that come off of the initial fire. So that's still under investigation,” Trzaski said.
There was another tool used in the fight against the brush fire: the Middletown Police Department’s drone.
"Technology is so important now, today,” Chief Erik Costa said.
The drone’s infrared showed fire crews where to allocate assets.
In the midst of an all-hands-on-deck operation, there was a house fire with no one to initially respond but the chief himself. With the help of accompanying firefighters, four people on the second floor were pulled to safety.
“Not to sound too dramatic, but we were moments away from what could have been a horrible tragedy,” Trzaski said.
Of 100 responding firefighters, one sustained a foot injury from a hose line and is expected to make a full recovery.
State leaders say combined efforts likely saved lives.
"With all of these dead trees and with the high winds, it could have been a very, very dangerous situation,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz (D), a resident of the area, said.
According to fire officials, a brush fire of this magnitude is rare in Connecticut.
“A very unpredictable unusual event,” Middletown Mayor Benjamin Florsheim said. “As we deal with the new reality of forest management, as we deal with the new reality of what that looks like in the world dealing with climate change, we have to prepare better."
Middletown Police said crews are still working and roads are restricted. They ask people to stay away from the area impacted.
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