The day after a three-alarm brush fire on Poles Hill on Wheeler’s Point scorched 10 to 11 acres without any reported injuries, city and state crews were out Tuesday dousing hot spots and using heavy equipment to cut a path into the heart of the thick woods where smoke was showing.
The Fire Department and the Massachusetts Forestry Services also were conducting “controlled burnouts in the area,” Mayor Greg Verga announced in a call to residents, warning the burnouts would result in additional flames and smoke.
Amid continued drought conditions on Cape Ann, the city has banned outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, chimineas, and open recreational fires. Officials are also asking residents not to put out or discard cigarettes outside.
Meanwhile, in Rockport crews continue to fight a stubborn brushfire at Woodland Acres in the Pigeon Cove section of town that they have been battling two weeks.
“It is not out by any means,” said Rockport Forest Fire Warden Michael Frontierro. Firefighters are checking on it three or four times a day.
In Gloucester, residents were asked Tuesday to avoid Poles Hill if possible.
On a walk through the neighborhood around noon, one home on Wheeler Street had tangled fire hoses in its driveway and yard. Another line of hose not being used at the time snaked up the Poles Hill Conservation Area trail from Riverview Road to Sunset Hill Road. Police had blocked off Wheeler Street and Riverview Road to traffic.
Crews from the Fire Department, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Forest Fire Unit and Massachusetts Forest Fire Control were on scene.
“We had a little bit of an extension down in this direction,” said fire Assistant Chief Robert Rivas while standing on the trail not far from Sunset Hill Road at noon. “Crews are working up there as we speak.” He said they were trying to clear a path in case the fire gets going and to give them better access.
“We have no way to get in there right now, so, we are trying to create some access for us to get in there and knock down what the remaining little sections, hot spots, we have,” Rivas said. He estimated the brush fire had burned 10 to 11 acres.
Rivas said firefighters extinguished a small campfire in the area Sunday night.
“And we are not sure if that’s the cause of this fire or if this was something separate,” Rivas said.
Crews were dispatched around 10:45 a.m. Monday for the brush fire that ignited under dry, windy conditions.
Riverview Road resident Jacqueline Pino had ash on the cushions of the outdoor furniture on her side deck on Tuesday. She said she smelled smoke when she got home Sunday afternoon, and that the fire started Monday morning.
Pino said there was quite a bit of ash on Monday which was concerning. She said two or three years ago, there had been a fire in the area, however, “I don’t think it was as big as it was (Monday).”
Rivas said Monday homes in the vicinity of the fire were not in danger. Crews from Hamilton, Essex, Danvers, and Salem fire departments responded to the scene along with the Lynn Fire Department’s drone unit, according fire Chief Eric Smith.
Gloucester Police and Public Works also responded as did Beauport Ambulance Service. Peabody, Manchester and Middleton fire departments provided station coverage. Monday’s fire was contained at about 3:45 p.m.
Rockport crews were out at at Woodland Acres on Sunday after local and state firefighters conducted a “back burn” in the area on Saturday, said Frontierro. They were out at 3 a.m. Tuesday after they got reports of smoke, though he said it was coming from the Poles Hill fire, and again Tuesday evening. He said the state has done a good job of opening up the perimeter so crews can drive around to check on the fire.
“We don’t have the water capacity to put the middle out,” he said.
Rockport plans to hold a community information session on the forest fire on Wednesday, Aug. 3, at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom. Scheduled to provide information is Frontierro, the state DCR forest fire chief and the district chief. You find the Zoom link on the town’s website at https://www.rockportma.gov/home/news/woodland-acres-forest-fire-community-information-session.
“Residents should remain vigilant in monitoring for signs that the fire has restarted in the areas near them and call 911 if there are no fire personnel in the immediate area,” said Verga.
Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714,or at firstname.lastname@example.org.