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EXETER, R.I. (WPRI) — Exeter Fire Chief Scott Gavitt walked back the acreage burned in last week’s massive brush fire in Exeter.
Gavitt said the brush fire scorched between 575-600 acres Friday at the Queen River Nature Preserve, as opposed to the original estimate of 700 acres.
Firefighters surveyed the burned land Tuesday, according to Gavitt. He said it is hard to get an exact number due to rough and unmeasurable terrain throughout the preserve.
Still, DEM spokesperson Mike Healey confirmed the brush fire is the largest the state has seen since 1942, when roughly 24,500 acres burned.
Investigators appear to have traced the brush fire, which threatened dozens of nearby homes and forced residents to temporarily evacuate, back to an abandoned campsite at the preserve.
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More than 200 firefighters from departments as far as Central Connecticut worked for hours to get the fire under control. The Rhode Island National Guard’s Black Hawk team was called in to air drop water onto the flames.
Gavitt said the fire is 95% contained, though there are still some hot-spots smoldering in the center. Gavitt said he doesn’t expect the fire to be completely extinguished until the state receives at least three inches of rainfall.
No one was injured, nor were any homes damaged in the fire.
When asked about the wildlife that live in the preserve, Healey believes the vast majority were unharmed. Healey said most of the animals living on the preserve, including deer, rabbits, fisher cats and birds, are capable of escaping.
Since it is still early spring, Healey said most of the animals haven’t nested or started raising their young. If the brush fire were to happen a month or two later, Healey believes more animals would have died as a result.
The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation. Anyone with information regarding the fire’s origin is urged to contact the Office of the State Fire Marshal at (401) 383-7723.
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