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Dry conditions keep area firefighters busy

FIREFIGHTERS had plenty of debris to work through and around to get to the source and make sure it was out at a potential junkyard on John Hodgdon Road in Ossipee on April 15. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
April 19, 2012
COUNTY— As of press time, Carroll County remained under an extreme fire danger warning with "rain showers likely" weather predicted for April 21. And that will likely come as welcome weather to area firefighters.

Last weekend proved to be very busy for firefighters as they were called to several fires throughout the county that were fed by the dry conditions. According to the precipitation database at Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, www.cocorahs.org, the last time this region saw appreciable precipitation was on March 4 and that was in the form of snow, over a foot of it in most towns in the county. Since that date, there have been several days with trace amounts of trace to very light rainfall but no periods of sustained, drenching rainfall that the area needs to get out of the high fire danger warning. The most recent rain shows light amounts fell in several towns but it wasn't much with, for example, Wakefield showing .08" of rain that day and Effingham .11".

On April 14, Ossipee, firefighters were called to Archers Pond Road just past Archer's Pond to extinguisher a pile of burning furniture and other rubbish that had been dumped out there. That incident occurred about 3:30 p.m. and kept firefighters on scene for three hours.

On April 15, Madison firefighters were called to a barn fire near the intersection of Route 41 and Route 113. The small barn, already damaged by a fire several years ago, was completely destroyed in Sunday's blaze.

While firefighters were at that scene, another fire broke out in neighboring Freedom. That fire at a property on Bennett Road started out as an illegal campfire with the 911 caller indicating she did not know a fire permit was required. The fire spread to the yard and ended up burning about half an acre. Fire departments from West Ossipee, Madison, Center Ossipee, and Effingham all responded to help Freedom Fire Department put out the blaze.

Twenty minutes into the Freedom call, a fire broke out in Ossipee Corner at the Skelling property on John Hodgdon Road. As fire crews approached the scene they reported seeing heavy black smoke in the sky. This warranted a first alarm call, bringing in firefighters from five departments. The fire was sparked by a saw the property owner was using to cut a metal pipe. While the fire was contained to a small area, about 300 feet by 300 feet, the fire was difficult to extinguish as fire crews had to work through the pile of junk that included shopping carts, tires, metal, a mobile home and several parked vehicles.

Fire officials are warning residents and visitors not to do any outside burning at this time, even if they have been previously issued a permit. That plea was also echoed by Ossipee selectmen at their meeting this week. "I just want to express how concerned I am. Everywhere you go the fire danger is high," said Chairman Kathleen Maloney, asking that "everyone" be extremely careful and to understand the potential loss of wildlife, woodland, and possibly life this high fire danger problem brings.

Maloney also said Monday that the selectmen and the town's zoning officer plan to visit the site of the Skelling fire and research to determine if the property owner is in violation of any town ordinances or state laws as at first glance, the property appeared to be a junkyard operating without a permit behind a tall wooden fence guarded by no trespassing signs and dogs. There were multiple vehicles in varying states of disrepair on the property. According to town records, dating back to 1988, there has been much discussion and a legal trail questioning whether or not the property owner is in compliance. At one point, back in 1994, Skelling was able to produce a list to verify that all the vehicles on his property were registered and, therefore he was not operating a junkyard. There is no recent vehicle listing in the town's file and according to the Town Clerk, vehicle registration information is non-public and cannot be released to the media.

Maloney acknowledged the potential danger such a site might pose to the responding firefighters, whose chief was apparently unaware of what was behind the fence until Sunday.

Martin Lord & Osman
Brewster Academy
Varney Smith
Brewster Academy
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