Concord firefighters fight probable human-caused blaze on island in Merrimack River

  • A fire on an island near the Concord/Bow border on the Merrimack River was spotted Tuesday night. The fire was allowed to burn until the island could be safely accessed by boat Wednesday morning, fire officials said.

  • A fire on an island near the Concord/Bow border on the Merrimack River was spotted Tuesday night and was monitored by fire officials from both sides of the river. The fire was allowed to burn until the island could be safely accessed by boat Wednesday morning, fire officials said. —Courtesy Bow Fire Department

  • Concord area firefighters used boats to get over to the island to work on tapping down the fire on Wednesday morning, September 22, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/23/2020 2:06:37 PM

Concord firefighters battled a forest fire for hours Wednesday on an island in the Merrimack River near the Bow town line.

The fire was first reported late Tuesday evening by New Hampshire State Police, which was flying a helicopter in the area. Initially, authorities believed the fire was in Bow but, not long after arriving on scene, Bow crews determined the small island is actually on the other side of the town line, Concord Interim Fire Chief Guy Newbery said by phone Wednesday.

Concord firefighters, as well as members of the state’s forestry services, responded before sunrise to the island, which is about 2¼ acres, Newbery said. The island runs parallel to Hall Street and is near Amoskeag Beverages.

Newbery said first responders tried to access the island late Tuesday, but faced numerous challenges as night fell.

“It isn’t accessible by land. We determined after a thorough evaluation that there is no good access point other than by boat, but by then it was already dark,” he said. “At that point, we made the decision not to put people in boats in the river, fighting a brush fire that was contained to the island.”

Crews monitored the fire overnight but let it continue to burn.

Early Wednesday, additional crews returned to the scene and began preparations to shuttle firefighters and supplies to the island to extinguish the blaze.

“Unfortunately, there is no good boat launch access there so we decided to launch off Fort Eddy Road,” Newbery said at 9:30 a.m. “We hope to have the fire fully extinguished today. There are some snags in that trees are falling over, and so we have to be careful and proceed slowly to ensure no one is injured.”

The water level in the Merrimack River is low due to the severe drought that continues to worsen in northern New England. The conditions forced firefighters to use the river access off Fort Eddy Road near NHTI rather than one closer to the fire scene, Newbery said.

Once on the island Wednesday morning, the forestry service helped firefighters identify hazardous areas and cut down a couple of trees to create safe access.

By 2:10 p.m., the fire was declared under control. The cause and origin, however, remain unknown.

Newbery said there is no power source on the island and that he suspected it was a “human-caused fire.”

“We’re probably not going to ever be able to determine an exact cause,” Newbery said, citing the extensive damage.

“We’ll continue to monitor it over the course of the next few days, and I’m assuming there will be an occasional hot spot because it did burn pretty deep,” he continued. “We’re calling it extinguished for now, but because of the dry conditions and the wind, we will not be surprised if there is another flare up.”

Concord firefighters plan to return to the island Thursday morning to check for any smoldering brush or flames.




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