Blazes burn across state

Blazes burn across state

19 April 2009

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USA — A Friday night inferno in Merrimac eradicated a shopping plaza and sparked a brush fire a few hundred yards away.

“It’s flat. It’s gone. Everything is gone,” said Clarisse Brousseau, whose breakfast nook and bakery, Confections by Clarisse, was destroyed along with an animal hospital and other businesses occupying 118 East Main St. Brousseau opened her small business five years ago and plans to “hopefully rebuild and start over again.”

Merrimac firefighters said embers from the structural fire, which is under investigation, traveled from the scene that saw 30-foot flames and landed “an eighth of a mile” away, igniting a brush fire that burned until 1:30 a.m. yesterday.

“Typically, we don’t have brush and structure fires together,” said Fire Chief Larry Fisher of the Merrimac Fire Department. “When it’s brush fire season, it’s very concerning and it heightens our alert. But we’re prepared as we can be.”

Firefighters across the state attribute a spike in brush fires to “typical” and “traditional” seasonal conditions, along with a pattern of dry weather and gusting winds.

In addition to Merrimac, brush fires afflicted Gloucester, Lexington, Attleboro and various spots in Berkshire County.

Dave Celino, chief forest warden with the Department of Conservation and Recreation Bureau of Forest Fire Control, said the state has seen an “average of 20 to 30 fires a day” within the last four days, each claiming at least a quarter-acre of land and ranging up to 35 acres, as seen Friday night in Gloucester.

“Detection is our priority,” Celino said. “We’ve got 20 to 22 fire towers across the state, and all-wheel drive vehicles equipped to manage wild land fires positioned in rural areas.”

The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning on Friday, alerting fire officials of gusting winds, low humidity and levels of precipitation that contribute to a high magnitude of brush fires.

“The public has to be extremely careful extinguishing materials, not lighting campfires or cooking fires without permit within wooded areas,” said State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. He added that the State Police Air Wing has been active in surveillance and recognition of statewide brush blazes.

“There are a number of resources available, starting with the municipal departments,” Coan said of the state’s precautionary measures.

“Thankfully a forecast of rainy weather should decrease the concern we have of fires,” he said.

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