Two brush fires that burned up to 10 acres of woodland in Mashpee this week are of suspicious origin, Mashpee Fire Chief Thomas C. Rullo has confirmed.
“They started suspiciously. I do not believe they started naturally. I’m not sure if the fires were started with malicious intent, but the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is investigating,” he said, adding that there is typically a surge in brush fires during school vacation weeks.
Chief Rullo said that he expects to hear initial results of the DCR investigation within the next few days.
On Tuesday April 221, shortly after 6 PM, firefighters were called for reports of smoke at the Mashpee River Woodlands along the Mashpee River, where a large brush fire was found burning approximately a half-mile into the woods.
Firefighters and brush breakers approached the blaze from the end of Porthole Drive, off Mashpee Neck Road.
The Mashpee Fire Department was assisted at the scene by personnel and equipment from the Cotuit, Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills, Falmouth, Sandwich, and West Barnstable Fire Departments. The DCR and the American Red Cross also responded. Crews from Joint Base Cape Cod covered for the Mashpee Fire Department during the duration of the brush fire.
Chief Rullo said that approximately six acres were burned, and at one point a change in wind direction at sunset raised concern for the safety of the firefighters who were deep in the woods fighting the blaze. “The firefighters were more in danger than nearby homes. At times, large brush fires create their own wind and the situation can quickly become very dangerous,” he said.
Firefighters, who had some difficulty getting apparatus out of the thick brush, remained on the scene until nearly midnight.
On Saturday, another brush fire, almost directly across the river from Tuesday’s1 fire, burned nearly four acres.
While Chief Rullo said that Wednesday’s rains were helpful in easing the recent dry conditions, he stressed that brush fire danger will continue through the spring, with dry conditions causing intermittent “red-flag warnings” to be issued for the region. Red-flag warnings are issued by the National Weather Service to warn fire agencies that conditions are ideal for wildland fire ignition and rapid propagation.
Chief Rullo advises residents with fire permits to call the fire station before starting a burn to make sure weather conditions are safe on that day. He also urges residents who see smoke and think something may be amiss to call 9-1-1.
“We’ll come out right away to investigate,” he said.
1 Correction 4/24/14 4:57PM: Changed dates from Wednesday to Tuesday and added April 22