April 10, 2012


Brush fires scorch Groton fields

Police investigate whether 2 blazes are connected to rash of arsons

Brush FireBob Ellis/staff photographer
Groton Fire Department volunteers pack up their gear after battling a grass fire Monday afternoon on Chipman's Corners Road in the town of Groton.

Staff Reporter

GROTON — Two brush fires, one across from Groton High School, were quickly doused within five minutes of each other Monday afternoon.
The cause of both fires, which happened around 2:45 p.m., are being investigated and fire officials declined to say if either was connected to a rash of similar fires in March believed to be the work of a serial arsonist.
The first fire burned about an acre of field across from Groton High School, said Groton Fire Chief Lester Coit.
As firefighters returned to their station, another 911 call reported a “large brush fire” in an uphill field along Chipman’s Corners Road. The fire was started by the roadside and burned about 5 acres of grass, Coit said. It took several minutes to douse the fire, he added.
“It spread quickly because of the wind,” Coit said. Fire trucks were put on top of the hill to help contain the flames.
Coit said Locke firefighters made it to the scene first. The McLean Fire Department assisted. A Cayuga County Sheriff’s Department investigator was also examining evidence at the scene. Police could not be reached to comment this morning.
Wind speeds reached in excess of 30 mph Monday, which helped fuel several brush fires between Cortland and Tompkins counties. Earlier Monday afternoon, a brush fire was reported in Dryden on Dryden Harford Road, and another in Danby, Tompkins County.
Over the weekend, the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for Cayuga, Madison, Oneida, and Onondaga counties. A Red Flag Warning signals the threat of brushfires due to dry and windy conditions.
The state has a ban on outdoor burning until mid-May.
“It’s awful dry, we didn’t have the snow this year, so all the grass is standing up straight,” Coit said. “So when the fire does get into it, it (the fire) just takes off.”
Firefighters in March responded to about 20 brush fires in southern Cayuga County, and several others in Groton.
Police in Cayuga and Tompkins counties have investigated suspicious brush fires since early March. Most were in the southern Cayuga County towns of Locke and Summerhill.
The Cayuga County Sheriff’s Office has assigned a detective full time to investigate the fires. Sheriff’s officials have declined to specify which fires were suspected as arson and have not identified any suspects.
All of the brush fires happened along roadsides, police said.


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