brush fires

Crews Contain Two Separate Brush Fires in Middletown

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The Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection said firefighters have contained the two large brush fires that broke out in Middletown Tuesday.

Firefighters said they will remain at the sites until there is rain, possibly for weeks.

Rich Schank, a fire control officer for the state of Connecticut, is urging people to be cautious not to set any additional fires and is asking that people stay away from the areas that are burning.

One brush fire started Tuesday afternoon, in the area of River Road, Aircraft Road and Freeman Road, in Middletown.

The state DEEP said the fire was caused by downed power lines and high winds made their response challenging.

Schank said the fire went across the powerlines and jumped them.

Crews conducted a burnout operation and contained it from progressing further toward homes.

Smoke will be visible for the next few days due to smoldering, according to officials. The brush fire was initially believed to spread about 250 acres, but DEEP said it spread across approximately 155 acres.

Inside the fire line is nothing but dead oak trees because of gypsy moth damage, Schank said.

“Very dangerous conditions for firefighters. It’s one of the leading fatalities of firefighters across the country,” Shank said.

He said they cannot put firefighters under those trees and they are looking for control lines, like the road and the powerlines, and are using mechanical equipment to keep firefighters out of harm’s way.

Eversource said in a statement that they are working with Middletown fire officials to better understand what may have caused the brush fire.

"We do know yesterday’s windy conditions brought a tree down on our distribution lines in an area near the brushfire. We also know that the fire did at one point begin to approach our transmission lines in the area, however, they were not damaged. We’ll continue to work with local officials and our team to better understand the sequence of events and potential cause of the fire," Eversource said in a statement.

The second brush fire started on the Middletown and Higganum town line and fire officials said it is suspicious.

A resident contacted authorities around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night to report the fire and it’s not clear what started that fire. That fire is just under 22 acres and it’s contained, Schank said.

Schank said crews are on small congested roads and the firefighters are tired, they do not need any more traffic on the roads.

He also said 80% of their fires are caused by people, set or accidental, and the fire they are working to put out is overwhelming the state.

"We are a small agency struggling to keep manpower working," Schank said.

He said they will have a presence at the fire until there is rain.

Tips to Prevent Fires

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection offers the following tips to prevent forest fires:

  • Obey local laws regarding open fires, including campfires.
  • Keep all flammable objects away from fire. Scrape away leaves, twigs, and grass within a 10-foot diameter circle from fire.
  • Have firefighting tools nearby and handy.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Carefully dispose of hot charcoal.
  • Drown all fires.
  • Carefully extinguish smoking materials.

Tips for Homeowners

The DEEP offers the following tips:

  • Make a fire safe zone around your house. Clean flammable vegetation and debris from at least 30 feet around the house and any outbuildings.
  • Prune away the lower limbs of evergreens that are within the fire safe zone. Evergreens catch fire easily during dry periods and burn quickly.
  • Remove any limbs that overhang the roof or chimney.
  • Regularly remove leaves and needles from gutters.
  • Do not store firewood in the fire safe zone.
  • Use fire resistant roofing materials.
  • Make sure firefighters can find and access your home. Mark your house and roads clearly, and prune away limbs and trees along your driveway which do not allow fire truck access.
  • Have an escape plan-- and practice it.
  • Follow state and local open burning laws.
  • Stay with outside fires until they are completely safe and dead out.
  • Dispose of wood ashes in a metal bucket, soaking them with water before dumping them.

What to Do If You See a Forest Fire

  • Remain calm, go to the nearest telephone and dial 911 to report the fire as quickly as possible to your local fire department.
  • Calmly tell the emergency dispatcher when you saw it and where you saw it.
  • If you see anything suspicious let 911 know.
  • Stay on the telephone until the dispatcher tells you to hang up.

To get updates on the fire danger, call 860-424-3929.

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