Sizzle and drizzle; Heat wave, drought `recipe' for Holden fire.


Byline: Linda Bock; Adam Sege

HOLDEN - Firefighters from across the region worked in extreme heat for the second day to contain a massive brush fire - the largest brush fire in 35 years - which has already consumed more than 50 acres in a remote area off Salisbury and Reservoir streets.

The fire started Tuesday, and spread extremely fast because of the bone-dry conditions in the forest, according to fire officials. It was fueled by dead fallen trees, brittle limbs and piles of dried leaves, from the December 2008 ice storm. The fire was mostly out Tuesday night.

However, the fire left behind so many hot spots and pockets that firefighters will monitor the burned-out area for seven to 10 days, according to fire officials.

Fire Chief John Chandler said the cause of the fire has not been determined, but it was considered accidental. He said a smoldering cigarette or a spark from a campfire could have ignited the fire.

Three firefighters were treated Tuesday night for heat exhaustion, and were doing well yesterday, according to fire officials. Fire crews battled the blaze on what was, so far, the hottest day of the summer, with temperatures at or exceeding 90 degrees.

According to the National Weather Service in Taunton, the third straight day of 90 degrees or above in Worcester yesterday ushered in the season's first heat wave. Monday's high temperature was 92 degrees; Tuesday's was 96 degrees; and yesterday, the mercury topped out at 93 degrees, just shy of the 95-degree record temperature set in 1908. The temperature hit 90 degrees in Holden yesterday afternoon.

Firefighters' work was complicated by heavy mountain laurel shrubbery throughout the forest; firefighters had to use chainsaws to cut access paths. Firefighters worked the fire from several directions, and dragged heavy hoses deep into the woods from different locations. They shot foam and water onto hot spots, with fire burning as deep as a foot into the ground in places.

A command center was set up at the end of Chapin Road. No homes in the area were threatened by the wildfire, and all the roads in the area are open, according to fire officials.

Grateful neighborhood residents dropped off water, sandwiches and thank-you cards for the firefighters yesterday.

At the entrance to the Sycamore Drive command center, four handmade thank-you notes hung on a fence next to a yellow fire engine. Eight-year-old Sean Quinn had dropped off the cards Tuesday night, and yesterday morning he was...

To continue reading