It’s mud season in New Hampshire, but brush fire season in Abington.
Firefighters have been called out three times in the past week to battle ground blazes, including an early Saturday morning blaze that consumed 30 acres of woodland.
“The South Shore has really been hit hard the past three or four days with brush fires,” Abington Deputy Fire Chief Jack Glynn said. “From now until May 1, this is really the time of the year.”
The lack of recent snow and rain leaving underbrush crisp and dry? Leafless trees unable to block direct sunlight from hitting the forest floor? Stiff winds? All are contributing factors in the recent spike in brush fires, Glynn said.
Multiple people called 9-1-1 shortly after 1 a.m., to report a large brush fire in the woods off Hancock and Chestnut streets. Glynn said the fire was in a hard-to-reach section of forest located east of the utility lines, north of Cushing Pond, and west of the Lobster Barn.
Abington fire crews had to make their way about a half-mile up the trails under the utility lines, and then cut their way through dense briars and underbrush to reach the scene. Crews also used an access road next to Lobster Barn on Hancock Street.
Glynn said firefighters took a defensive approach during the overnight hours, making sure the large blaze didn’t spread toward any homes.
Once daylight came, Abington Fire officially requested mutual aid, which resulted in crews from Rockland, Whitman, Holbrook, Avon, and Hanover responding to the scene. Each town, including Abington, has specialized brush trucks that could move down the trails and provide firefighters with water. When a truck was out of water, it would cycle out to fill up, while the next ready truck moved in, Glynn said.
Crews also used a pump to take water directly from the nearby Beaver Brook. But they still had to carry 35-pound hoses over their shoulders through the woods at night.
“It was a very labor-intensive effort,” Glynn said.
That area of woods partly consists of swampy wetlands, but Glynn said the lack of recent rain has left the area largely dry.
About two-thirds of the entire Abington Fire Department was called to the scene, including those members off-duty. Skeleton crews meanwhile manned the town’s two fire stations.
“We had to call everybody in, it was so labor-intensive and we’re so shorthanded,” Glynn said.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but Glynn said that it could be a different number of things. For example, an ember from someone burning leaves in their backyard may have drifted away and smoldered for several hours before fully igniting in the night’s fierce winds. Or the direct sunlight could have hit an old drop of oil.
Abington firefighters were called out to a smaller fire nearby on Saturday afternoon. They also had to fight a small backyard fire earlier in the week.