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Damage In Tolland

Forest Fire Thread- SNE-Updated for summer drought/torch

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Well....another 2.5 acre fire today; bad thing is that it came in st 815am!! Next two days should be interesting

No wind though, that is a huge plus.

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Here's a nice read about the NW Ma. fire towers, specifically the stone tower in Shelburne Falls.

Sorry no link because I have it saved as a PDF and it's no longer up on line.

On the lookout for fires

Meet the Shelburne fire tower’s observer


Recorder Staff

SHELBURNE — The view from Herman Meattey’s office is breathtaking, but while the casual observer might note the sunshine on the hills bristling with leafless trees and spotted with evergreens, Meattey’s observation is not casual.

Meattey, better known as Butch, spends his working day watching the landscape for smoke from a lookout cabin atop the century-old Shelburne fire tower.

The 63-foot tower atop Massaemet Mountain in Shelburne affords views to the mountainous horizon in every direction, and the miniature buildings and streets of Shelburne Falls at the base of the mountain.

The only stone fire tower still in service in Massachusetts and possibly the country, according to the National Historic Lookout Register, the tower is topped by a 10-by-10-foot cabin of more recent construction.

Large sliding window panes offer a nearly unobstructed view.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation staffs two other towers in the district, the Sunderland tower atop Mount Toby and the Warwick tower atop Mount Grace, and potential fires are located by triangulation.

The system is low-tech but effective.

A glass-topped wooden disk atop a pole at the center of the small room is the main means of fire location, an antique tool called an alidade table.

Meattey sights along the two vertical fins of the alidade, a metal arm revolving around a central axis and takes a reading from the compass rose and map under the glass.

A map on a wooden backing folds down from the ceiling and Meatey uses the alidade reading, expressed in degrees from North, to plot a line along the map with a string.

Each fire tower is represented on the map by a small hole through which the string passes. The string is kept taut by a lead counter weight hanging behind the board and pinned to the frame with an attached thumbtack to plot the line.

Meattey and his fellow observers with the Forest Fire Control communicate by radio; by plotting the intersection of two sight-lines in string, they are able to narrow down the source of the smoke to a map location for the fire departments on the ground.

Meattey and the other two observers man the towers from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day during the brush fire season and on days identified as high-risk.

Beginning earlier than the other two this year, Meattey said Sunday he had gone 15 days without a day off. With three towers and only three observers under the direction of the state forest fire warden, a seven-day workweek is a fact of life.

Meattey is also a deputy fire chief with the Erving Fire Department.

In those 15 days, Meattey said he and the others had spotted and called in two brushfires in Colrain, one in Heath, one in Whately, one on the Mount Tom Range and one on the Holyoke Range.

A seventh fire was spotted Saturday in Montague, but Meattey said they were still plotting out the location when firefighters were dispatched.

With cell phones everywhere, Meattey said it is now fairly common for passersby to call in a fire while the observers are still plotting it out.

In this case, firefighters were initially dispatched to the area of the Deerfield rail yard, a point for the observers who were able to correct the location.

Meattey said he could see from his vantage point that the fire was on the Montague side of the Connecticut River.

A passing train apparently sparked a number of small brush fires along the tracks that Meattey said firefighters were able to put out.

Trains, with hot soot from the engines and sparks from dragging brakes, are Meattey’s second biggest concern.

The first is permitted burns that spread beyond the control of their minders, which he said account for most brush fires.

The regional dispatch center issues burn permits for much of the county and will not do so for days considered high fire risks, but not all subscribe to the regional system and town fire departments may issue permits.

Sunday was a Class 4 day, ranked in a system classifying fire danger based on humidity, wind and precipitation, with Class 5 signaling the highest fire danger.

Meattey spotted several plumes rising in the hazy air during the space of two hours Sunday.

The first, he quickly determined to be dust, likely from a farmer plowing his field, from the faint brown tinge to the cloud.

Smoke from a brush fire will usually be white, although different types of fuel including tires, certain trees and railroad ties treated with fire retardant can darken the plume. Movement is also a strong indication of an uncontrolled burn and observers keep an eye on permitted burns to be sure they don’t begin to move or spark other fires nearby.

A sudden plume of smoke plotted on a line that could have put it in Wendell quickly faded, and Meattey guessed it was someone lighting a wood stove.

A plume triangulated to the area of Leyden Road and Silver Street in Greenfield proves to be an under-control cooking fire, according to radio chatter.

Meattey’s radios erupt with reports from different directions when a possible fire is spotted, but much of the day is spent sitting and watching a quiet landscape.

Late afternoon is the prime time for fires, Meattey said, with temperatures at their highest, humidity at its lowest and the afternoon winds picking up.

“You just need a spark at that point,” he said.

When a good rain comes or the trees and foliage put out new leaves, Meattel will be able to leave the tower and return to work on the ground, where he responds to fires, helps maintain fire roads and teaches fire safety to children. “Follow Smokey’s rules,” said Meattey, who dons the Smokey the Bear suit for the traveling fire-prevention program. “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

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Where is that pic from? Looks like a SecondWind Triton Sodar unit on site there on the far right edge of the pic...not that anyone really cares.

eh... I just found it on Panoramio using a google search...

That does look like one of those Secondwind units based on their website pic.

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This one started on tues/wed in Erving up on Farley Ledges. It's a popular rock climbing area. I've hiked up in there and this fire isn't huge but sounds like a b*tch to deal with hiking 40-50lbs of water in bladder packs!


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Wow massive smoke plume overhead right now from Dedham fire. Crazy.

That fire was big and hot enough to show up on IR as a hotspot. Pretty impressive for these parts.

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Congrats to the heartland of Dedham, MA and surrounding areas.

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