USA — A brush fire destroyed more than 100 acres of woodlands in Foster Township on Friday, threatening about 12 homes atop Autumn Mountain.
A concerted effort by more than 100 firefighters from more than 20 fire departments prevented that from happening.
Two firefighters suffered flash burns fighting the fire, one from the Freeland Fire Company and the other Dennison Township. Both were being treated at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton, according to Foster Township fire Chief Mike Spock.
Spock, who coordinated the attack from the outset at 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. when it was declared out, called for all available help to fight the raging fire that was fueled by windy, dry conditions.
Flames raced quickly from Sandy Valley up to homes atop Autumn Mountain which were reachable only through the Hickory Hills Private Community along Route 940.
Dense smoke filled the wooded area causing eyes to water and noses and throats to burn.
Worried residents kept a close eye on the quickly changing conditions as the day progressed. At one point, residents were told to close up their homes and take what they could as the fire spread rapidly as winds shifted and tossed the flames across roads.
Fire scorched decks and firewood stored about 20 feet from about 12 homes according to Spock, who said the homes were saved by the tireless efforts of firefighters and apparatus used to haul water from a nearby lake.
Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) planes were deployed from the Hazleton Regional Airport to drop wet water, a sticky fluid added to the water, to help knock the flames down.
Fire engines, pumpers, tankers and all-terrain vehicles were used to get at a tricky, shifting fire that could have caused much more damage than it did.
“The fire jumped the road on both sides at one point,” Spock said. “We saved all the homes.”
It was a long day for most of the firefighters as smoke from the fire could be seen for miles from both Hickory Hills and Sandy Valley.
DCNR crews patrolled the area through the night and a new crew was to continue mopping up hot spots this morning.
“This could actually take days before it truly out,” DCNR official Nick Lylo said from his office in Lackawanna County. “DCNR Forestry always helps with fire suppression on wild land.”
In addition to Foster Township Fearnots, Freeland, Hazle Township, Sugarloaf Township, Albrightsville, Lehigh & Lausanne, Weatherly, Lake Harmony, White Haven, Valley Regional, Mountain Top, Dennison Township, Mifflin Township, Kidder Township, Laurel Run, Hanover Township, Berwick, Bloomsburg, Espy, Kunkle, and Back Mountain, Also several fire companies sent more than one piece of equipment and several ambulances, including APTS showed up at the scene. And the Hazleton Fire Department was seen going to the airport to refill air tankers.
Pennsylvania Fire Police and Carbon County Fire Police directed traffic and several utility companies showed up to cut off power.
Holly Robinson, a four-year resident of Hickory Hills, was impressed with the number of fire companies that showed up to assist with fighting the fire as she watched fire apparatus move up and down the mountain all day.
“It was nice to see so many fire companies coming to help fight the fire,” Robinson said.