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TOWNSEND — A multi-structure fire ripped through the area in 1927, and today, that area is Townsend State Park.

The fire engulfed 28 square miles and, today, the forest has been classified as a “Type III fire regime,” which basically means that the frequency for a fire is once every 35 to 100 years.

To mark the fire’s 84th, the selectmen discussed hazard fuel reduction techniques, such as controlled burns, with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and Townsend Fire Department Chief Don Klein.

According to Department of Conservation and Recreation District Six Fire Warden Rob Johnson, hazard fuels are low-lying plant species which burn extremely hot during wildfires and are unsafe for firefighters trying to combat them.

“We want to use a number of strategies to treat Townsend State Forest,” he said.

“The plan will make the area less apt to have a fire and create a safer environment if one were to occur.

In addition to controlled burns, logging equipment and the improving of “fuel breaks” are also part of the plan. Fuel breaks are clear, road-like ways through the forest at which a fire would stop advancing.

Before the burns happen DCR needs to file a burn plan and hold a public forum and, according to Johnson, mailings and proper notification is provided. The burns will be done in small, 2- to 3-acre patches so as to keep the diversity of the forest up. Johnson’s “burn window” is between mid-September and mid-October to allow for most advantageous conditions.

Selectmen Vice Chairman Sue Lisio expressed concern for animals and their natural habitats.

“Wildfires do occur and animals do survive,” said Johnson, adding that the DCR takes great care in assessing local wildlife and ecosystem restoration is always a post-burn objective.

Johnson says the plans also take into account everything from ecosystem restoration to smoke management.

“Smoke attributes are determined by the DEP while considering the forest’s ceiling height determines and how well smoke will evacuate into suitable areas,” Johnson said.

Another benefit is the training opportunities it offers local fire departments.

“This is good for my department, I only have a handful of guys who have dealt with wildfire situations,” Chief Klein said.

Klein added that he would reach out to other departments and offer the training experience to neighboring departments. Brookline, N.H. Fire Chief Charles Corey and Assistant Chief Scott Knowles were also at the meeting. Brookline abuts the forest’s northern edge.

DCR has secured a $127,000 grant for the project which is expected to be ongoing until June of next year.

District Six Fire Warden Ron Johnson can be reached regarding the process by e-mail at ron.johnson@state.ma.us. A public forum will be posted before the burn.

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