By Steven Fletcher
Off a smoke-clogged trail a quarter mile into the southwest corner of Dogtown, city firefighters Thursday night blasted water on the edge of a quick-moving brush fire that ravaged several acres of the city's historic wilderness.
Fire crews responded to the initial call reporting a column of smoke coming off a trail the woods near the city compost yard at the end of Dogtown Road. More than an hour later, 18 firefighters and two forestry trucks extinguished the fire, stamping it out with brooms and shovels when they had to re-load water.
"I don't know how many acres we had (ablaze)," said Deputy Chief Joe Aiello.
Local firefighters kept watch on the blaze well into the night. Aiello said Gloucester firefighters would go back again this morning.
There were no reports of any injuries, and firefighters said Thursday night they had not determined a cause for the blaze.
The fire came about a week after Mayor Carolyn Kirk officially declared the city's public woods off limits because of the dry weather. The National Weather Service also issued a "red alert" for fire danger Thursday morning.
Gloucester's Engine 1and first forestry truck arrived at scene, high off Cherry Street, around 5:30 p.m.
Gary Lindberg, one of the firefighters at the scene, said the blaze took off as firefighters got there — at one point jumping across the main trail about 400 yards from Gloucester's compost yard.
"It was ripping through the woods and heading toward Goose Cove," said firefighter Mike Sonia.
"We were lucky the wind was less than it was (earlier)," Lindberg added.
Observers at regional fire towers as far way as Georgetown told city firefighters they saw two blazes in the Dogtown woods — which turned out to be the single, wide blaze.
Local firefighters hosed down the fire about 200 yards into the woods from the main trail, leaving smouldering trees and a scent of burnt cedar in the air. The site was thickly overgrown and dry.
"It gets into the bull briars," Sonia said at the scene. "Those things are like gasoline."
Crews had the blaze under control by 6:30 p.m., but were running low on water, said Fire Capt. Phil Bouchie, who was commander at the scene.
The department's two forestry trucks hold less than 500 gallons of water each. Firefighter Tom LoGrande said the department relayed water to them with Engine 5. The engine would fill at a fire hydrant, pump water into both trucks and repeat as often as needed.
Sonia said the same area had burned six or so years earlier.
Fires are usual this time of year, he added, but if the weather keeps up like it is, they'll be worse ones come July.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.