By Curt Peterson
On June 1 the Killington Select Board enthusiastically approved sending an official letter thanking 10 neighboring towns’ firefighters who helped extinguish a persistent forest fire that started on May 15 on the hillside north of Route 4 in Killington.
The new owners of the property, David Rossiter, who hail and William Rossiter who hailed from Colorado, did not have a permit to burn. They own about 136 acres of property located behind the former Kokopelli Inn and were burning “slash” left from logging operations when the fire got out of control, according to multiple reports from fire personnel.
Killington Fire Wardens Tom Rock denied multiple requests for burn permits because of dry conditions earlier that weekend.
Visible smoke alerted passersby, who called in the alarm.
In addition to Killington Volunteer Fire & Rescue, firefighters from Bridgewater, Rutland Town, Rutland City, West Rutland, Pittsfield, Proctor, Barnard, Bethel, Clarendon and Stockbridge combined forces to battle the blaze, which, state Forest Fire Supervisor Lars Lund estimated burned about 30 acres.
Supplies and equipment were carried across a stream to access the flames on ATVs. Warden Tom Rock estimated 850 man-hours were invested containing the fire, which also ruined $5,000-$10,000 worth of Killington fire hoses.
According to a 2010 ordinance, the property owners could be held ultimately responsible for some costs.
The official letter of gratitude will be signed by Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth, Select Board chair Steve Finneran, Killington Police Chief Whit Montgomery, and Killington Volunteer Fire & Rescue president Gary Roth.
“We are extremely grateful for mutual aid,” Warden Rock said. “There is no way a single department could do it alone, there’s just too much labor involved. Communities come together to help each other out. It’s really a selfless act.”
There are typically 200-400 forest fires reported annually in Vermont, with the average burning one to two acres— fully 50% are started from debris burning, the state reports.