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Grass, brush fires keep Franklin County volunteers busy

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MALONE - Nine wildland fires have been keeping the Franklin County Volunteer Fire Departments busy this past weekend.

Twelve departments, including Dickinson, were called to the Niles Road in Dickinson starting shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday for a wildland fire.

Helping out Dickinson firefighters were responders from St. Regis Falls, Moira, Owls Head, Duane, Bangor, Constable, Westville, Bombay, and Burke. Also called were the Nicholville and Hopkinton/Fort Jackson departments; Paul Smiths/Gabriels was on standby at the St. Regis Falls station.

“There was a total of five acres [destroyed],” said Barney White, Dickinson fire chief, adding that no one was injured and no buildings were damaged.

Mr. White said the fire took between three and half to four hours to extinguish.

He added that the time it takes to extinguish a fire depends on where it is located and how hard it is to access it.

The fire started in the woods near an old railroad bed, according to Mr. White.

“The access was limited to small trucks,” he said. “And the guys had to cart in water ... it was a bit of a challenge because they had to go back to the main road to fill back up.”

However, White said he is unsure how far back the fire was from the road.

“There were five brush trucks in all,” White said. “The rest was man power and ... tools,” adding that there was about 50 men in total at the scene.

White said New York State Forest Rangers had been working with the department to determined the cause.

“We haven’t had [wildland] fires on this road in the past,” White said.

Though it is undetermined what caused the fire, White said wildland fires used to be a normal occurrence every year.

“But now with the burn ban, there has not been as many as there used to be,” he said.

After the fire, White said the men raked flammable forest matter, such as leaves and pine needles, into a dirt pile.

“We made a dirt line around the parameter to contain the fire to where it was,” he said, adding this is what is done regarding wildland fires.

Indian tanks, or soft tanks, were used to help extinguish the flame, as well as combi tools that were used for cutting and spreading, according to Mr. White.

Brushton

Brushton also experienced a wildland fire around 9:44 a.m. on Sunday on the John Hill Road, where seven departments, including Brushton, were involved.

Helping to extinguish the fire in Brushton were Moira, Bombay, Bangor, Fort Covington, Dickinson, and Hogansburg/Akwesasne – all had brush trucks, according to Tim Trimm, Moira volunteer fire first assistant.

“About eight to 10 acres [were destroyed],” Mr. Trimm said. “No structures were in the area; it was all woods.”

The fire started about 400 to 500 yards from the road, according to Mr. Trimm.

“As of last night they [the Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Forest Rangers] hadn’t even determined where it started [or the cause],” Trimm said.

Fifty to 60 firefighters were there to fight the flames, according to Mr. Trimm.

“We got there just before 10 a.m., and we didn’t get back here until 20 after 7 [p.m.] last night,” he said.

Mr. Trimm said the firefighters on the John Hill Road, also dug a perimeter around areas the fire destroyed.

“You got to make sure nothing’s burning underneath; you’ve got to get the hot spots underneath so it won’t take off again,” he said. “It’s labor intensive.”

Firefighters used back tanks and a forestry hose that was dragged through the woods, according to Mr. Trimm.

“Multiple hand tools were used; shovels, axes chainsaws ... every department has something,” he said.

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