Fire Chief casts suspicious eye upon Weirs brush fires

LACONIA — A five-alarm brush fire that charred 10 acres off the Weirs Boulevard on Saturday afternoon is unusual and possibly suspicious, according to the city's fire chief.
Chief Ken Erickson said there have been four brush fires in Laconia and two in Meredith all between the curve at Christmas Island Resort to the traffic circle in Meredith.
"Fires don't start in the middle of the woods accidentally," Erickson said yesterday morning. "There was nothing to start those fires."
All totaled, he said 47 firefighters from communities as far away as Wolfeboro and Moultonborough were in Laconia to either fight the stubborn Saturday afternoon fire or provide station coverage for the city.
He said Wolfeboro firefighters covered the Weirs Station and responded to three incidents in the city. Erickson said Wolfeboro covering in the city is "a first" since he has been chief.
Erickson said the 10-acre blaze behind the Paugus Bay Racquet Club was even more difficult to extinguish because of the steep and rocky terrain. He said the forestry vehicles only got firefighters about 200 yards into the woods and, with the exception of the new Polaris the department just purchased, all other access had to be by foot.
"We dragged 2,500 feet of hose into the woods," he said.
Erickson also said that even though the winds were reasonably calm, the fire spread rapidly in three directions because of the terrain. In places, rocky ledges impeded firefighters' access.
"This was fought largely with backpacks, picks and shovels, he said.
Erickson said the fire was reported to officials at 1:45 p.m. and was declared under control shortly after the fifth alarm was sounded around 4 p.m. He said the Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid and the Community Emergency Response Team along with firefighters from Gilford, Belmont, Meredith, Center Harbor, Holderness, Tilton-Northfield, Gilmanton, Sanbornton, Franklin, Moultonborough, Bristol, Alton, Barnstead, New Hampton, and the State Department of Resources and Development. He said the CERT team bought supplies from a local supermarket and made sandwiches for the firefighters — something he said they really appreciated.
He said Laconia Police kept the Weirs Boulevard closed during the fire.
Erickson said firefighters returned twice on Sunday to extinguish hot spots and check for rekindling but he said Sunday night's cold temperatures likely cooled any hot areas.
Erickson also said the second Saturday fire near the Langley Cove that was reported several hours later was not sparked by embers from the first fire.
He said what wind, there was was not blowing in the direction of Langley Cove. He also said the distance between the fires and the time of night was inconsistent with embers falling from the first fire.
Erickson said the Langley Cove fire charred brush right up to the edge of some mobile homes. He said this fire was extinguished by 1:30 a.m. Sunday.
"There were no signs of campfires or accidental ignition in either fire," Erickson said.
Laconia Police Capt. Matt Canfield said he would describe the series of fires as "kind of odd" and "definitely weird."
He said there has been some information that there were two people seen getting out of and into a silver car shortly before the first fire was reported but said police only want to talk these people or anyone else who may have been in the area before the fire.
Anyone with any information about any of the fires is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252, the greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.