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Substantial Mutual Aid Response Helped Contain Five Acre Sandy Hook Brush Fire



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All five of Newtown’s fire companies and many mutual aid companies were called on during the afternoon of Sunday, March 19, when a large brush fire broke out in Sandy Hook.

It was the second time in as many weeks that a stubborn fire challenged local first responders along a section of Berkshire Road with steep hills and deep woods. Brush fires continued to challenge firefighters into the week.

CT DEEP puts Connecticut’s spring fire season as running from mid-March to mid-May. According to the state agency, this is the time of year when deciduous trees are bare and the warm spring sun heats up the forest fuels including grasses, leaves, twigs, branches, and decaying material in the soil.

Typically, fires that start this time of year burn the surface and can spread very fast. That’s exactly what happened last weekend in Sandy Hook.

Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company and Botsford Fire Rescue were dispatched at 1:45 Sunday afternoon to Berkshire Road near Sherman Street for the reported fire. Sandy Hook Chief Anthony Capozziello was on the scene within minutes, and confirmed a large fire on the eastern side of Berkshire that was extending quickly up the hill.

Capozziello quickly asked for Newtown Hook & Ladder to be added to the call. Winds were driving the fire up a hill and then well into the woods.

Sandy Hook, Botsford and Hook & Ladder firefighters and apparatus responded, with Capozziello quickly calling for additional help. Stepney and Southbury were dispatched to the call, with requests to send additional manpower and equipment for the firefighting efforts.

Stevenson and Brookfield sent apparatus and manpower to Botsford and Hook & Ladder stations, respectively, to cover any calls that came up in town.

Brookfield also sent manpower and additional equipment to the scene of the fire.

Meanwhile, firefighters at the brush fire scene began fighting the fire by entering the properties at 93 and 107 Berkshire Road. The private properties abut a large section of Newtown Forest Association property.

Newtown Fire Marshal Richard Frampton said wind was a challenge.

“The wind’s been crazy,” he told The Newtown Bee. “They had the five acres down there, and wind was blowing 30-40 miles per hour, which just pushes it through.”

According to Capozziello, approximately 50 firefighters were at the scene, some for nearly 2½ hours.

An estimated 20,000 gallons of water was used to douse the fire, which spread across five acres.

Dodgingtown and Hawleyville companies were put on standby at their respective stations.

The bulk of the fire was knocked down by 3:30, according to Capozziello. Firefighters continued putting out hot spots for nearly an hour.

The final firefighters cleared from Berkshire Road at 4:22 pm.

Additional Fires

Eleven days earlier, local firefighters also battled a brush fire near 93 Berkshire Road and Sherman Street. Firefighters on March 7 were dispatched around 1:45 to that area, and then also to 51 Berkshire Road, near Misty Vale Deli.

The second fire was quickly handled by Sandy Hook and Botsford, while Sandy Hook began contending with the fire opposite Sherman Street.

Once the Sandy Hook and Botsford crews were done at 51 Berkshire, they too moved to 93 Berkshire to also work that fire scene. As with the March 19 fire, winds played a role in the challenge of the March 7 fire.

Approximately 17 firefighters responded to that fire, which burned 4½ acres. Hook & Ladder firefighters provided standby backup at their station, and Stevenson had a crew and equipment at Sandy Hook’s substation.

At the same time Sandy Hook and Botsford were dispatched last week, Hawleyville firefighters were sent to a brush fire along the I-84 West Exit 9 off-ramp on March 7.

On Tuesday afternoon of this week, Sandy Hook and Botsford firefighters were again sent out to a brush fire call. This time it was in the back yard of Stone Gate Trail in Sandy Hook, and came dangerously close to a chicken coop.

At least one young resident who was home when the fire broke out reportedly began attacking the fire with a garden hose. Arriving firefighters were able to quickly knock the fire down before it reached the coop or nearby residence.

Tuesday evening, Botsford and Sandy Hook were again dispatched for a brush fire, this time along Castle Meadow Road. The fire companies responded to a fire in the woods, accessing that with brush fire trucks and quads.

Fire Marshal Urges Caution

Fire Marshal Frampton says people need to be careful.

“They say all the time, ‘Don’t throw cigarettes out the windows,’ but people still do that,” he said this week. “The Forest Fire danger has been High the last few days. You can’t burn when it’s High or Extreme.”

Burn permits are canceled any time the Forest Fire Danger is High, Very High or Extreme and planned burning will be within 100 feet of grassland or woodland.

Frampton also reminds readers to also check the Air Quality Index, which is reported by DEEP.

“The air quality has to be under 100,” he said. “If air quality is Good or Moderate, you can burn. If it’s over 100 you can’t burn either.”

Recreational fires also need to be watched closely, if done at all, the fire marshal said.

“Even if you’re having recreational fires, check the Forest Fire danger level, and make sure it’s not extremely windy,” said Frampton.


Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@thebee.com.

Berkshire Road between its intersections with Sherman Street and Zoar Road was closed to through traffic for over two hours the afternoon of Sunday, March 19, while firefighters battled a large, wind-driven brush fire. —Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue photo
As viewed through the windshield of a Botsford Fire Rescue truck as it arrives on scene, BFR Chief Andrew White assesses Sunday’s brush fire. —Botsford Fire Rescue photo
Firefighters last weekend used multiple quads and brush trucks to access the five acres, much of it Newtown Forest Association property, scorched by a brush fire. —Botsford Fire Rescue photo
A rough access road within the NFA property that abuts Berkshire Road and Zoar Road was used for access on Sunday afternoon. —Botsford Fire Rescue photo
For some firefighters, initial access to the first was up a steep hill along the eastern side of Berkshire Road. —Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue photo
Sandy Hook and Botsford firefighters were out on brush fire duty again Tuesday afternoon, when another fire threatened a chicken coop behind a home. —Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue photo
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