Should we fear wildfires?
Some think of wildfires as a phenomenon of the West, but Margaret Carnivale, fire warden for District 12 (Berkshire County), says they can happen here and vigilance is needed. Even after the wet summer of 2017, a dry fall could spell trouble. Conditions change rapidly; the statewide drought of 2016 followed a winter of nine feet of snow.
In April 2015, with spring run-off still underway, a wildfire started near the Appalachian Trail in Clarksburg and burned for five days. Sixty-five firefighters aided by a National Guard helicopter with a 500-gallon scoop finally controlled the blaze. Much more frightening was the Great Taconic Wildfire. Starting near Wingdale, New York, in May of 1930, driven by 40 mph winds, it spread eastward to Clayton, Massachusetts, and southward to Kent, Connecticut, spawning 100 individual fires.
The good news for Berkshire residents is that our forests are not especially susceptible to wildfires, according to Carnivale. Sandy soils make coastal areas more volatile. Today, state towers in Savoy and Monterey monitor Berkshire County for wildfires. Since the state began its fire suppression program in 1911, the size of the average wildfire has dropped from 34 acres to only 1.17