Russell, MA Fire, May 1930


High Wind Whips Flames, Blamed on Sparks From Locomotive, a as More Than 750 Men and Boys Battle for Hours to Check Blazes--Farmers Driven From Homes--Montgomery Town Threatened.

By a Staff Reporter

Russell, May 4--Fanned by a high wind, fires which broke out in a half-dozen places along the Boston & Albany railroad tracks northeast of here this morning spread over the hills and ridges and tonight had burned over more than 2000 acres of young growth timber. The fire was still out of control late tonight despite the efforts of more than 750 men and boys, assisted by firemen and apparatus from Russell, Huntington and Westfield, and was gradually spreading across Mt. Shadrack and over the rugged hill section toward the town of Montgomery.

Residents Driven Out

Residents of a half-dozen farmhouses and summer homes were driven from the vicinity by the dense smoke as the flames moved steadily through the surrounding woods and undergrowth. Although the houses near the boundary line between Russell and Huntington, where the flames originated, were said to be in no immediate danger because of cleared spaces, other farm homes farther east near Montgomery Center were in the direct path of the fire as it progressed along with the wind, and there was increasing possibility that several might be destroyed.

Fire Momentarily Checked

Telephone service to the town of Montgomery was partly disrupted early path of the fire were cut off. At one time during the early afternoon the firemen and volunteer workers succeeded in checking the flames temporarily, but within a few minutes sparks were fanned into flame again by the sharp gusts of wind and soon the fire again was cutting deep swaths through the timber at a number of points. The territory burned over was for the most part covered with scrub brush although there were some stretches of fine young growth of birch, maple and oak trees.

The fires, said to have been started by sparks from a Boston & Albany freight train, broke out along the east bank of the Westfield river at points several hundred yards apart over a stretch of about a mile near the town line between Russell and Huntington soon after the train had passed during the middle of the forenoon. With the flames driven before the wind and moving rapidly up the sides of the hills and ridges, George H. Harris, town fire warden of Russell, sent out a call for help and in a short time two forest fire trucks from Westfield were on the scene to assist firemen and volunteer workers from Huntington, Montgomery and Russell.

Hoses Laid to River

Albert R. Ordwny of Westfield, district forest warden, was also summoned and aided in reciting the efforts to check the blaze. Several thousand feet of hose were laid in a number of lines and streams of water pumped from the river and near-by brooks were played along the outer fringes of the fires, but, because of the rugged territory and the high wind, great difficulty was experienced in doing effective work.