WILLIAMSBURG - Firefighters extinguished a blazing structure fire Tuesday at 66 Nash Hill Road by using a very old engine and an even older fire pond adjacent to the property.
Fire Chief Don Lawton said the noontime fire in a small barn owned by Gayle and Judith Mathers at first threatened other nearby buildings. "It was fully engulfed when we arrived," said Lawton. But thanks to a 33-year-old mini-pumper engine that drafted water out of a 75-year-old fire pond - and to a quick response by Williamsburg firefighters - the blaze was out in 45 minutes.
"We had great response from Williamsburg folks," said Lawton. "Two engines were on the scene in three minutes and 15 firefighters from town showed up immediately."
Lawton said a firefighter from Agawam who works for Highland Ambulance was impressed at the response and at the department's ability to quickly pull water from a fire pond. The Agawam firefighter noted that his department hasn't had to use a fire pond in 20 years.
There are about eight to 10 fire ponds scattered across town, according to Lawton, though there were far more in the past. The ponds are hard to maintain, given state Department of Environmental Protection regulations, said Lawton, and many are now filled with silt. "It's too bad, they save lives and property," noted Lawton.
The Nash Hill Road fire pond was a good one to use, said Lawton. Owners of an old farm on the site did apply for a permit to clean it out six to seven years ago, so firefighters were able to rely on the pond and not on tanker trucks. "We dropped the water level 2 to 3 feet in the pond," said Lawton.
The structure that burned was in the process of being torn down and was filled with hay and old tires. Lawton said he does not yet know what started the fire. Nearby barns filled with expensive equipment were saved, though the siding on one of the buildings closest to the fire was beginning to scorch, said Police Chief John W. Cotton.
Cotton said that when the owner of 66 Nash Hill Road called to report the fire she could feel the heat from it 300 to 400 feet away. According to Cotton, Highway Superintendent Bill Turner used the Highway Department's Caterpillar backhoe to pull apart burning debris so firefighters could extinguish the fire under the rubble of the building.
Crews from Chesterfield, Goshen and Northampton responded and Goshen Police assisted as well, said Cotton. Highland Ambulance provided an ambulance to stand by until the fire was extinguished.