Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — ROYALTON — Approximately 75 firefighters from Wolcottsville and six other fire companies spent several hours battling a brush fire that burned 11 acres at the edge of the Alabama Swamp on Friday afternoon.
The fire, reported at 2:19 p.m.,
was in the far southeast corner of Niagara County, in an area of New York state-owned land off Bartel Road.
Wolcottsville First Assistant Fire Chief Paul Gurnett said the fire was roughly a half-mile off the road, requiring firefighters to use specially equipped vehicles to reach the blaze. Brush trucks — four-wheel-drive trucks with 200-gallon tanks — were used to gain access to the flames.
An all-terrain-vehicle was also used to move firefighters and equipment from the road to the scene. Firefighters used brooms and shovels to beat back flames. “Indian tanks,” backpack-type five-gallon water containers were also employed.
Gurnett said firefighters made “a g
ood stop,” holding the fire back from swampy areas. He said had the flames reached the swamp, it would have created a bigger problem.
“If it had reached the cattails, we would have been in trouble,” Gurnett said, “cattails embed themselves into the ground farther than regular grass, so if it gets into the roots of the cattails, it will burn underground.”
Gurnett said that because the fire was located on the border with Genesee County, Fire Chief William Tobin II immediately requested firefighters from the Town of Alabama to also respond.
“We knew we were going to need manpower,” Gurnett said.
Wolcottsville and Alabama used their brush trucks and additional brush trucks and manpower were supplied by the Rapids, Gasport and Akron fire districts. The ATV was provided by the Terry’s Corners fire department. Middleport firefighters were also requested.
According to Gurnett, the neare
st fire hydrant was about four miles from the scene. He said there were hydrants available in the hamlet of Wolcottsville, but fire officials opted for a larger water main near Lewiston Road and Griswold Street.
From there, a sophisticated system was used that consisted of Middleport firefighters filling tanker trucks at the hydrant. The trucks then hauled in water to a portable pond, capable of holding up to 2,500 gallons of water. Pumpers then drafted water from the portable pond, filling the brush trucks that then carried the water to the fire.
Approximately 16,000 gallons of water was used, Gurnett said.
Gurnett said the burned area was estimated at 20 acres by firefighters, but a New York state forest ranger set the size at 11 acres.
It took about one hour to snuff most of the flames, but firefighters remained at the scene, snuffing out hot spots until almost 7:30 p.m.
“We had a lot of tired individuals when we were done,” Gurnett said. “It was warm out there and we needed to rotate people in and out to keep them hydrated.”
No injuries were reported.
Gurnett described the impacted area as near shooting berms off what was once known as Hellerd Road.