Monday April 8, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Local firefighters needed more than six hours Sunday to contain a 10-acre brush fire near the Berkshire County House of Correction.

The earth scorcher was one of several wind-swept fires that kept the Pittsfield and Lee fire departments busy over the weekend.

Shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, city firefighters responded to Partridge Road, where a homeowner reported his controlled burn of a pile of brush accidentally spread to a nearby field. Gusty winds fanned the flames, sending the fire into a marshy area on the backside of the county jail complex, according to Pittsfield fire officials.

"It was tough to reach due to the swamp," said Captain Raymond Tart. "That little bit of rain we had late in the day helped [control the fire,] but I wish we had more."

As the last of the responding fire units left the scene by 8:30 p.m., several tree tops in the swamp could still be seen smoldering in the darkness, noted Deputy Fire Chief Bruce Kilmer.

Earlier in the day, The Pittsfield Fire Department quickly doused a brush fire along Barker Road, that burned, at most, two acres.

The windy, dry conditions were also to blame for a brush fire off Forest Street in Lee Saturday afternoon. A business owner was burning in an old gravel pit, relying on the earthen walls to keep the fire in check, according to Lee Fire Chief Alan Sparks.

The strategy didn’t work.

"The wind was so strong, it blew the embers out of the pit and as far as a football field into the woods," Sparks said.

The fire chief credits his men for knocking down the fire and keeping it from spreading well into the forested area off Route 20 in the East Lee section of town.

While Pittsfield fire officials were issuing burning permits on Sunday, they were cautioning homeowners to keep a close on their fires due to the parched conditions.

"The wind dries everything up quickly," said Tart.