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Woodstock forest fire perhaps caused by meteor may take another day to bring under control

By JOHN KOZIOL
NEW HAMPSHIRE UNION LEADER

October 04. 2017 1:37PM
A meteor is being eyed as the possible cause of a forest fire on Dilly Cliff, opposite the Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves, according to officials. (JOHN KOZIOL/Correspondent)



NORTH WOODSTOCK - Two helicopters, including a New Hampshire National Guard Black Hawk, were dumping water Wednesday on the Dilly Cliff fire, which may have been sparked by a meteor.

The fire reported Tuesday burned more than 25 acres on the cliff, said Woodstock Fire Chief John MacKay. The site located across from the Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves.

Flames spread quickly east to west and upward, he said.

Tuesday night it advanced into the adjacent White Mountain National Forest to the northeast.

MacKay said that with help of a Black Hawk helicopter dumping water on the blaze it could be contained Wednesday, but Thursday is more likely.

Crews began fighting the fire on Tuesday. No one has been injured and the Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves are still open.

The cause and origin of the fire remain unknown, according to MacKay. A Bath resident driving through the area on Monday night said he saw something, possibly a meteor, fall from the sky.

As of Tuesday, a cause had not been determined, but MacKay said he believes the fire was not intentionally set.

Assisted by a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter, crews are returning today to battle the woodland fire.

Despite terrain that exceeded a slope of 60 degrees, no one has been injured fighting the blaze, and no structures at Lost Gorge have been threatened. The fire has consumed about 20 acres and is moving to the northeast, MacKay said.

Thanks to even more personnel and the Black Hawk, which can lift up to 600 gallons of water at a time from the nearby Beaver Pond, MacKay hopes the fire will be contained sometime today.

Still, the fire will likely smolder for a long time thereafter, MacKay said.

“It’s burning in to the duff,” he said of the accumulated combustible material that carpets the forest floor and falls into deep crevices between rocks.

A helicopter assists in efforts to battle a forest fire on Dilly Cliff in Woodstock on Tuesday. (JOHN KOZIOL/Correspondent)

It’ll probably take a heavy rain or snow, added MacKay, to totally snuff out the fire.

Lost River Gorge has been owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests since 1912 and since the 1960s has been operated by White Mountain Attractions.

The society maintains the Dilly Trail on Dilly Cliff. That trail intersects with the Appalachian Trail.

Kate Wetherell, manager of Lost River Gorge, said the attraction, which boasts more than a mile of boardwalk, had to close Tuesday but would re-open as soon as possible.

The attraction is normally open daily through Oct. 15, and on a day like yesterday would have seen several hundred visitors, said Wetherell.

She estimated that the fire came within a quarter-mile to a half-mile of Lost River Gorge, adding the firefighters on Tuesday had done “a fantastic job” while scaling the “steep, hand-over-foot” Dilly Trail.

Lincoln Fire Chief Ron Beard, who was the operational commander, said the first attack was made by some two dozen firefighters using hand tools to create “scratch lines” to deny the fire of fuel and slow its advance.

jkoziol@newstote.com


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