Metro

White Mountains forest fire still burning a week later

Local, state, and federal firefighters have been on scene since last Tuesday working to contain the fire.
John Tlumacki/Globe staff
Local, state, and federal firefighters have been on scene since last Tuesday working to contain the fire.

A forest fire that has burned for more than one week on a cliff in Woodstock, N.H., still covers around 70 acres and will continue to smolder until extinguished by heavy precipitation, the US Forest Service said.

“While rain over the weekend and holiday helped to dampen the fire’s intensity, the fire is not out,” US Forest Service spokeswoman Tiffany Benna said in a statement Tuesday. “Due to the very steep rugged terrain and fuels in the burn, this fire will continue to burn at various intensities until extinguished by a rain or snow event.”

“The fire continues to retain heat and to burn in the duff and root systems,” White Mountain National Forest acting Deputy Forest Supervisor Joe Koloski said in the statement. “Weather will play a large role in the fire’s behavior over the next few weeks.”

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The blaze first broke out early last Tuesday morning on Dilly Cliff near Lost River Gorge in Woodstock, and local, state, and federal firefighters have been on scene since then working to contain the fire.

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The cause of the fire remains under investigation, although a local man claims to have seen a meteorite labd in the area last Monday night and believes it could have sparked the blaze — a report Woodstock fire officials could not confirm last week.

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Minor Planet Center associate director Gareth Williams told the Globe he thought it was “unlikely that a meteorite fell in the first place, and even if it did it would be unlikely to cause a fire.”

The fire is currently classified as a Type 4 incident, the second-least-complex incident that requires few resources to manage, according to the National Park Service.

Around 10 firefighters remained on scene with hoses Wednesday to monitor the blaze, control its perimeter, and hunt for hot spots, according to New Hampshire Division of Forests & Lands Forest Ranger Captain Douglas Miner. That task that has been a challenge for crews working to control the fire’s spread because of its placement on the cliff.

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“It’s just one of those difficult to access locations; very steep, rocky topography that they’re dealing with,” Miner said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “That really extends the longevity of the fire with the boulders and the crevasses.”

The 70-acre fire is not a major risk to the forest it currently occupies at this point, Miner said. Due to the terrain there, though, smaller fires are still smoldering throughout the cliffside and are proving hard to locate and put out.

“In a lot of the crevasse areas, there’s years of accumulated leaf litter and debris,” Miner said. “It tends to smolder and kind burn away slowly.”

“Even flooding it with a lot of water still takes a lot of effort because you can’t physically reach down there,” he said.

For the time being, firefighters will stay on scene and keep watch over the blaze indefinitely as the fire burns, hoping for heavy rain or snow to fall on the cliff.

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“They’re going to keep monitoring every day,” Miner said. “It’s going to be a long-term process.”

The portion of the Appalachian Trail that crosses Route 112 in Woodstock and runs near Dilly Cliff remains closed to hikers, the Forest Service said. An alternate route along Gordon Pond Trail that runs behind the cliffside is open.

Ben Thompson can be reached at ben.thompson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Globe_Thompson.