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Multiple units respond to Bethlehem brush fire

July 03, 2020
BETHLEHEM — Last Friday, the Bethlehem Fire Department responded to a brush fire in a remote development area of Bethlehem. The blaze started on private property near Cleo's Way and multiple fire departments were called in to assist.

Approximately 50 firefighters from Littleton, Whitefield, Sugar Hill, Franconia, Woodstock and Twin Mountain assisted the Bethlehem crew as they attempted to extinguish a nearly two-acre fire in rough terrain. Two tankers were brought in, as well as representatives from the New Hampshire Department of Forest and Lands.

Crews worked until sundown on Friday night and returned for another six hours on Saturday morning. According to Bethlehem Fire Chief Jack Anderson, the burn had gone underground and come back up again.

He said, "We contained the fire on Friday but had to dig it all out on Saturday to make sure it was extinguished. The real challenge came from the decaying vegetation. We couldn't put it out by putting water on it."

Anderson said no one was harmed, no structures suffered damage and there would be no penalties for the landowner.

"It was one of the bigger wood fires that we've had to deal with this season. It was the type of fire where it gets down in the ground and is difficult to work with when you have to dig every spot that's smoking and find a hot pocket of fire," he added.

The blaze came one day after officials announced moderate drought conditions for the southern and central parts of the state. The State Department of Environmental Services recommended that residents attempt to conserve water from private wells.

Chief Anderson also expressed concerns with Independence Day around the corner. Both fireworks and lightning could be problematic due to unseasonably dry conditions, he said.

"The dryness is so deep if lightning hits a tree, it could travel down into the roots and burn underground for quite a while before surfacing. If any hot firework embers fall into the woods right now, it could take several days to kindle before anyone noticed it," noted the Fire Chief.

Anderson said the dry conditions made it difficult to determine the cause of the Bethlehem brush fire.

He said, "Even if we had gotten a good rainstorm, it probably would have still required that we dig it out. The fire was so deep, we would put water on it and it would be smoking again five minutes later."

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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