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Firefighters climb a hill to battle a brush fire that threatened a camp in Woodford on Monday. The primitive road leading to the site, located about a mile south of Route 9 beside the Prospect Mountain Ski Area, required the use of four-wheelers to ferry men and equipment. For a video, visit benningtonbanner.com or the Banner’s Facebook page. (Peter Crabtree)
Tuesday May 7, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Senior Staff Writer

WOODFORD -- Firefighters from several area departments battled a forest fire Monday that scorched 13 acres of land near Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center, but were able to contain it in the early evening and keep it from spreading further.

The fire, which appeared to start at and surround "Camp Snook," was accessible only by all-terrain vehicles and four-wheel-drive trucks. Firefighters were shuttled to the area on dirt roads and trails off of City Stream Road.

The camp is reportedly owned by Russell Thurber, according to people at the scene Monday, but that could not be immediately verified.

The underbrush of several acres of land appeared to have already burned by the time firefighters arrived early Monday afternoon. Some downed trees had to be cut and cleared from trails to allow for access by small brush fire trucks from the Bennington Rural, Pownal and Shaftsbury Fire Departments.

A three-man crew from the U.S. Forest Service arrived on scene about 3:30 p.m. because the camp is located within the Green Mountain National Forest, Capt. David Disanto said.

Forest fires are uncommon in the area, according to Disanto.

"We spend most of our time down south and out west, never here," Disanto said.

Firefighters walked and rode ATVs through already-scorched land, where smoke and flames continued to burn in spots, and spread out in several directions with rakes and chainsaws to create a fire line.

A steady breeze blew embers around the dry forest, however, and helped flames flare up again and again. Firefighters used water packs, filled from an on-site pond, to spray hot spots.

Firefighters from around the county were asked to help fight the fire. More than 50 firefighters were in the woods battling the blaze by 3:30 p.m., according Bob Bayer, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.

He said they were able to complete a fire line by 5:30 p.m. to keep it from spreading. The forest is filled with mostly hardwood trees, which did not catch fire.

"Right now the fire has been contained. There's a line around it," Bayer said. "When you get into hardwood the lower brush and leaf litter is going to burn fast and furious and then be done."

Forest Service firefighters walked the perimeter of the fire and used GPS to determine that 13 acres had burned.

No official cause was determined by Monday evening, according to Bayer, but several firefighters said it was likely started as a controlled burn to clear brush. The area around the camp had recently been cleared, they said.

Bayer said Monday evening that jurisdiction over the fire was unclear. The fire may have occurred on private land within the National Forest. "They'll sort out the jurisdiction and if it's on us we'll send some people down there tomorrow to monitor it," he said.

The fire occurred near a main Forest Service access road and near other town roads. Several other camps and residences are in the area, but no structures were impacted.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami