Brush fire appears suspicious

Blaze burned about 6 acres of state forest

Smoke rises through the trees of the Naugatuck State Forest along Route 8 near the Naugatuck and Beacon Falls line as firefighters battle a brush fire Sunday afternoon. The fire appears to be suspicious, officials said. –CONTRIBUTED

Smoke rises through the trees of the Naugatuck State Forest along Route 8 near the Naugatuck and Beacon Falls line as firefighters battle a brush fire Sunday afternoon. The fire appears to be suspicious, officials said. –CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — A forest fire along Route 8 North that sent 30 firefighters rushing to extinguish is being investigated as suspicious.

The fire started in the Naugatuck State Forest at 3:30 p.m. about 20 yards from the northbound lane of Route 8 in between exits 24 and 25, near the Naugatuck border. Firefighters from Beacon Falls, Naugatuck and Oxford worked to put it out while Seymour firefighters covered the rest of Beacon Falls. Traffic was backed up on Route 8 North for more than an hour.

Using water from several pumper trucks, firefighters doused the flames in about 90 minutes after the fire burned about six acres of wooded area. Nobody was injured.

Now, firefighters say, the job is figuring out how it started.

“It looks suspicious,” said Jeremy Rodorigo, a Beacon Falls firefighter and spokesman for Beacon Hose Company No. 1. “If you look at the way it burned, it certainly appears that way.”

He said the fire was moving fast and was on a hilly terrain, making it difficult to put out. Also, since it was near a highway, there are no fire hydrants, so the tankers were necessary.

Assistant Beacon Hose Fire Chief Brian DeGeorge said the fire looked suspicious because there were heavy flames in five small areas, and the fires did not initially connect. A typical brush fire starts in one area and moves.

“This could have been a lot worse, especially if it got over the hill because it would have been hard to access,” DeGeorge said. “It was a great job by the firefighters.”

Similar fires have occurred along Route 34 over the past year and a half, and firefighters say they believe they are the work of an arsonist. The most recent was in April when someone started four small brush fires along that road near the Stevenson Dam in Oxford and near the former Actor’s Colony on Route 34 in Seymour.

Firefighters said they believe that was the latest in an array of roadside brush fires in Derby, Shelton, Seymour and Oxford.

Scott Pelletier, Oxford’s veteran fire chief and fire marshal, said the fire Sunday and those along Route 34 have similarities.

“This started a little farther off the road, about five or six feet, whereas the fires on Route 34 are right along the roadway,” he said. “But they are similar and that is something we will be looking into.”

The state fire marshal has also been called in to investigate.

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