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Quincy officials say Blue Hills brush fire not safety threat

Posted by dinouye  October 31, 2013 02:42 PM

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A brush fire smoldering for nearly a week in the Blue Hills has destroyed more than 40 acres of forest, and though it has also caused concern among residents, firefighters say the blaze doesn’t pose a threat. Quincy Deputy Fire Chief Ed Fenby said the fire began last Friday in a part of the Blue Hills off Bunker Hill Lane, burning five acres. Embers from that fire flew into land near Ricciuti Drive, taking down another five acres. Most recently, the fire has consumed 21 acres along Wampatuck Road going up into the Blue Hills Reservation, Fenby said, and plumes of smoke have traveled into Quincy, Milton, and even Weymouth over the last week. Despite the large swath of land destroyed, and the pervasive smog in the upper South Shore, the public should not be concerned. “It sounds big because of all the smoke, but it’s not a big situation,” Fenby said. “This happens every three to four years … we go through a real dry spell and it gets going … It’s something we have to deal with, but it's not any real danger to the public.” Fenby said firefighters have focused on areas near roads or property lines. Battling the blaze deep into the forest has been difficult, especially as Quincy firefighters don’t have the equipment for it. “We’re going up there with structural firefighting gear, which just isn’t made for it,” Fenby said, noting that firefighters were using brooms and shovels to try to put out the fire in some areas. “It’s not an optimum situation.” Still, firefighters have had success in keeping the fire under control. Four of the eight fire stations in the city responded to the area Friday. Since then, Quincy firefighters and several fire wardens from the state have responded daily to the scene, and the fire has been contained to certain areas and remains smoldering in peat moss underground. Light rainfall on Wednesday also helped hydrate unburned areas to further keep the flames at bay. “At this point, that 21 aces that have burnt, all the loose leaves and grass and everything that’s going to burn has been burned. There may be some stumps, but as long as it’s not within 20-30 feet of the fresh stuff or a road…there isn’t a lot we can do about it,” Fenby said. “We can pour water on it for days, it's still going to be smoking, but it’s not actively burning.”

Though things are under control, concerned residents have called in record numbers.

On Tuesday, a wind change blew smoke across Route 93, causing visibility problems. Later that day, smoke from the fire blew into Quincy, causing some residents to think there was a fire in their neighborhoods.

“We were getting calls everywhere, trucks would drive around and not find anything because it was smoke from Blue Hills. But we can’t ignore it,” Fenby said.

City Councilor Brian Palmucci also said people were concerned about safety. Dozens have called, emailed, or sent messages on Facebook to the councilor wanting to know what was happening.

“It’s clear here is something going on,” Palmucci said. “There is a strong smoke smell in West Quincy right now and there has been since Tuesday night…I smelled it about 8:30 on Tuesday and I thought the house was on fire.”

Palmucci said he issued an automated call on Wednesday to inform approximately 9,000 households of the fire and to let them know that there was no danger.

“My fear is there are seniors in the home by themselves and they don’t know what’s going on and may not have access to a computer…and are nervous about the smell,” Palmucci said. “It’s more letting the public know that there is no public safety threat.”

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