Wildfire Closes Part of Appalachian Trail

Wildfire in White Mountains has burned over 70 acres

 

Jordan Cuddemi, Valley News

North Woodstock, N.H. — Public safety officials from several Grafton County towns have joined state and federal officials in fighting a hard-to-reach wildfire in the White Mountains that has burned more than 70 acres and closed a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

Fire crews from the Grafton County towns of Woodstock, Lincoln, Holderness and Bethlehem, as well as workers from the U.S. Forest Service and the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, have worked since early Tuesday morning to suppress the flames that continued to burn into Thursday evening in North Woodstock.

Video footage and photographs show flames roaring on the hillsides near Boulder Caves in North Woodstock and helicopters dropping water from above. The wind and dry conditions aren’t helping with suppression efforts, Forest Ranger Captain Douglas Miner said on Thursday.

“We had plenty of rain in the spring and summer and now we are drying out again,” Miner said.

Wind gusts picked up on Wednesday night, causing flare-ups in the Kinsman Notch area. Those gusts continued into Thursday, he said.

How the fire started isn’t yet known.

There were initial reports that a meteorite may have struck the side of the mountain, but experts have since said that would be a very unusual cause of ignition, according to Miner. A campfire could be to blame, he said

The fire has forced the USFS to order an emergency closing of the Kinsman Ridge Trail. The agency is asking thru-hikers to use open trails in the region to detour around the danger zone.

White Mountains Attractions and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests jointly agreed late Thursday afternoon to close Lost River Gorge and Boulder Caves, a popular tourist attraction, due to the fire. That decision took effect immediately, officials said in a news release.

“We were originally planning to close for the season on Oct. 15, so we will be closing a few days early,” said Jayne O’Connor, president of White Mountain Attractions. “Columbus Day weekend is one of our busiest, so this will come at some cost, but getting this fire contained is clearly the higher priority.”

So far, no injuries have been reported, and no structures currently are in the fire’s path, Miner said.

The Grafton County Sheriff’s Department’s communications trailer is one of two on-site posts offering command and dispatch services to the affected area.

Last November, a wildfire scorched 325 acres of the White Mountain National Forest. That fire, which broke out near the historic Albany Covered Bridge, just off the Kancamagus Highway, was believed to have been started by an improperly extinguished campfire.

Since conditions remain dry, Miner suggested campers and hikers wait for significant rainfall before lighting campfires or use extreme caution.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com

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