New Hampshire brush fire burns near popular hiking area

AP

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NORTH WOODSTOCK, N.H. (AP) Rainy weather wasn't enough to contain a 70-acre brush fire near a popular hiking attraction in the rugged terrain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, authorities said Friday.

Firefighters are unsure of the cause of the fire, which started Tuesday on a cliff in Kinsman Ridge over the Lost River Gorge, an area popular with hikers and explorers. They've considered everything from a campfire to a meteor, although some think the latter is far-fetched, according to officials.

A new command team of state and federal officials who are experienced with complex wildfires took over Friday, allowing for more equipment and firefighters.

More than 70 firefighters battled the fire and several smaller blazes Thursday.

Helicopters were dropping water on the fire. On the ground, crews worked to create a fire line, which involved removing vegetation so that the fire doesn't have anything to burn.

A five-mile flight restriction for aircrafts flying up to 5,000 feet was in effect Friday. The only aircrafts allowed in that area were the ones fighting the fire.

Lost River Gorge was closed for the season Thursday as crews used it as an operations base. The closure comes ahead of Columbus Day weekend, one of the busiest times of the year. About 2,500 people visited the gorge during the holiday weekend last year.

Last November, a brush fire burned 330 acres near the scenic Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountain National Forest. Tiffany Benna, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, said what seems different about this fire is that it torches trees, while the other fire was much lower to the ground.

"It was a higher intensity than we've seen," she said of the current fire.

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