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With three helicopters in use, firefighters 'gaining ground' on Dilly Cliff fire

Union Leader Correspondent

October 05. 2017 9:26PM
A Black Hawk helicopter dumps water Thursday afternoon on Dilly Cliff, which has been on fire since Tuesday. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

A 6-pound meteorite for sale at Dondero’s Rock Shop in North Conway where they can fetch prices up to $20,000. (John Koziol/Correspondent)

NORTH WOODSTOCK — With three helicopters, including a second New Hampshire National Guard Black Hawk entering the fray, firefighters were “gaining ground” Thursday on the Dilly Cliff Fire, Woodstock Fire Chief John MacKay said.

About 100 people, including the air crews, were battling the fire, which was reported at 6 a.m. Tuesday. As of Thursday afternoon, it had burned a combined 70 acres on Dilly Cliff as well as in the adjacent White Mountain National Forest.

Directly across from Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves, the fire is easily visible to travelers on the east-west New Hampshire Route 112.

White Mountain Attractions and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests have jointly agreed to close Lost River Gorge, effective immediately, due to the fire.

The incident command team fighting the fire made the request, according to a news release.

“Columbus Day weekend is one of our busiest, so this will come at some cost. But getting this fire contained is clearly the higher priority,” Jayne O’Connor, president of White Mountain Attractions, said in a statement Thursday.

“The team fighting this fire has a very challenging task,” Jane A. Difley, president/forester at the Forest Society said in a statement. “The slopes where the fire is burning are extremely steep, making this fire particularly dangerous for those working to contain the fire on the ground. We are more than willing to do what we can to assist in their work.”

VIDEO: Black Hawk loads up with water, then drops it on Dilly Cliff fire:

The fire’s cause — not believed to be suspicious — attracted attention after MacKay reported that a Bath resident driving on Route 112 through Kinsman Notch near Lost River Gorge on Monday evening told him that he saw what he believed was a meteor or comet.

While MacKay doesn’t rule out the possibility that a meteor started the Dilly Cliff fire, he, like Douglas Miner, a forest ranger captain with the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, believes the cause will ultimately prove to be much more mundane. Human beings and their activities are responsible for 80 percent of wildfires, said Miner, although there are natural causes such as lighting strikes and limbs or trees falling onto power lines.

Miner said Dilly Cliff is crossed by the Dilly Cliff Trail, which later joins with the Appalachian Trail. It’s possible the fire was started by a hiker’s improperly discarded cigarette or not-fully-extinguished campfire.

The possibility that a meteorite was involved intrigues Thara Sylvester, manager of Dondero’s Rock Shop in North Conway.

At Dondero’s, which has been in business since the late 1960s, a dime-sized meteorite sells for $95 while multi-pound specimens can go for $20,000. The store has a six-pounder whose provenance tag states that it was found in 1891 in Diablo Canyon, Ariz.

Meteorites are “highly sought after,” Sylvester said.

Fires Outdoors North Woodstock

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