Fire officials on Sunday asked for the public’s help in their investigation of a four-alarm brush fire that tore through the former home of a drive-in movie theater in Sutton earlier this month.
The fire destroyed the movie screen and consumed several acres of brush on both sides of Route 146 before firefighters from Sutton reinforced by mutual aid from surrounding communities were able to extinguish it officials said.
“Our goal right now is to gather as much information as possible,” said Sutton Fire Chief Matthew R. Belsito in the statement.
The blaze was reported at 4:38 p.m. on May 2 and was not knocked down until 9:19 p.m., as firefighters from nine neighboring communities, as well as the Department of Conservation and Recreation, battled the roaring flames.
The Arson Watch Reward Program provides rewards of up to $5,000 for information that helps to detect or prevent an arson fire, but the cause of the Sutton fire must first be established before it coudl qualify, officials said.
The confidential hotline can be reached by calling 1-800-682-9229.
The request for help comes as brush fires have struck several areas of the state recently.
Lynnand Milton brush fires each spread across 10 acres in each of those communities over the weekend, Wark said.
The Milton blaze broke out Saturday in the Wolcott Hill area of the Blue Hills reservation — the third brush fire in the reservation in as many weekends, according to Milton Fire Deputy Chief Jeff Murphy.
Saturday’s blaze was the smallest of the three, burning 12 acres. Firefighters worked for nearly six hours to put out the fire, the cause of which remains under investigation.
A forest fire in the White Mountains in New Hampshire that began Saturday has burned through approximately 250 acres as firefighters returned to the site Sunday morning, the Bethlehem, N.H. fire department wrote in a Facebook post.
Brush and wildland fires usually pick up in March and peak throughout the spring months, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Department of Fire Services.
“The annual numbers fluctuate with precipitation and other weather factors, but the snow has melted away and there’s plenty of dry vegetation and leaves on the ground to act as tinder,” said Wark, in an e-mailed statement. “Combined with low humidity and high winds, these conditions make it easy for fires to start and very difficult for firefighters to contain them.”
Dave Celino, the department of conservation and recreation’s chief forest fire warden, said the number of brush fires so far this year is not unusual — but they have burned more area than usual.
“What’s unique is the size of the fires seem to run a little larger, the main reason is probably the weather pattern,” he said, noting that low humidity combined with wind events are ideal conditions for fires to spread quickly.
Most all brush fires, Wark said, are started by human activity.
“As people engage in more outdoor recreation, we ask them to be careful with any open flame, whether it’s used in smoking, camping, grilling, or other activities,” he said. “We also need to use caution with ATVs, lawnmowers, and other gasoline-powered engines used in off-road environments.”