Firefighters still working on Leverett forest fire 

  • A forest fire broke out on Joshua Hill on Thursday morning. As of Tuesday, the fire was about 80% contained, according to Leverett Fire Chief John Ingram.  COURTESY PHOTO/COLRAIN FIREFIGHTERS’ ASSOCIATION

Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2020 12:59:17 PM

LEVERETT — A fire that has burned trees and consumed undergrowth on about 66 acres of woodland between Montague Road and Route 63 north of Leverett Pond is mostly contained following five full days of firefighting.

Leverett Fire Chief John Ingram said Tuesday that firefighters have gained control of the blaze by establishing a secure fire line, which runs about 1½ miles around the perimeter of the fire and is designed to prevent its continued spread.

The fire line was cut by a bulldozer, donated by Wagner Wood of Amherst for use for two days. The bulldozer scraped away ground cover to get to bare ground. Then, firefighters dug a trench at the fire line by hand, with the aim of breaking the greenery and ensuring the fire has no way of escaping.

“We’re in a much better place than we were,” Ingram said.

At the peak of the fire over the weekend, more than 100 firefighters from throughout the region were on scene to battle the blaze.  

Ingram estimates that the fire is now 80% contained. The continued challenge is due to the landscape’s significant ledge and not being able to make a perfect circle around the fire.

For the rest of the week, at least through Saturday, there will just be crews of two Leverett firefighters going out, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, to make sure the fire remains under control, Ingram said. They will get assistance from the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation and state wildlife management employees.

The work began last Thursday when the department got calls from Rattlesnake Gutter Road residents and identified the plumes of smoke were coming from what is known as Joshua Hill. The cause of the fire is not yet known and remains under investigation.

The wet weather this week has helped, but Ingram said it won’t be enough to get down into the roots and fully douse the blaze.

“That whole area will be hot for a while,” Ingram said. 

Because of that, Ingram said hikers and those who are curious should not venture onto the land.

“It's still too dangerous to be in that inner circle,” Ingram said, adding that some trees continue to be consumed and burning limbs and entire trees are occasionally falling.

As firefighters did work in the woods, residents and area businesses helped to bring breakfast, lunch and dinner to them.

Leverett Connects, the town’s e-newsletter, served as a way to get people to get the necessary food and drink to the Leverett Safety Complex.

The work included arranging for the delivery of pizzas by Amherst House of Pizza, purchase of sandwiches and grinders from Big Y Supermarket, donation of bananas by Atkins Farms Country Market and 40 pounds of ice by Liquors 44 in Hadley, a half-pallet of water bottles from Home Depot and a mixed box of apples and pears from the Leverett Village Co-op. Stop & Shop provided gift cards for supplies.

Leverett resident Betsy Neisner said Leverett Connects is ready to activate whenever an emergency or other need in the community arises. Those who coordinated the effort checked in with firefighters to learn what their needs were and when they would need the supplies, Neisner said.

Patricia Duffy, another Leverett resident, said at one point people were asked to pause in getting food and drink because so much had already been brought to the site.

“There was tremendous outpouring from Leverett Connects,” Ingram said. “It absolutely blew us away the support of the community and their appreciation for all crew members.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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