July 01. 2013 10:16PM

2008 was NH's most recent bad wildfire year

New Hampshire Union Leader

The last time New Hampshire had to call for help from an out-of-state hotshot crew was in late May and early June of 2008, when fire raged on Rattlesnake Mountain in Rumney. The week-long wildfire, one of the worst in the past decade, charred 54 acres of the mountainside and surrounding terrain.

Regional resources included a crew from the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, a hotshot team from Illinois and Black Hawk helicopters from the N.H. Air National Guard.

Such destructive wildfires are not nearly as frequent in New Hampshire as in the arid west, but they can be ferocious when they strike, said Fire Capt. John Dodge, coordinator for out-of-state fire response with the Division of Forest and Lands.

One of the worst was a 2008 wildfire near Gorham that burned more than 98 acres before it was brought under control. The extremely dry summer of 1995 led to a fire season that started in March and continued through Thanksgiving, he said, requiring fire crews from outside the state — along with aircraft from the western states — to cope with multiple wildfires.

"We responded to more than 10,000 acres of fires in Long Island that year," said Dodge.

In the 10 years from 2000 to 2011, the stage averaged 415 wildfires a year, with 183 acres burned — the largest number (176 of 415) cased by debris-burning gone awry, according to the Division of Forests and Lands Forest Protection Bureau.

The largest recorded fire in the division's history struck in 1941 in and around Marlow, when debris left from the Hurricane of 1938 burned for three days, consuming nearly 28,000 acres of forest. The Arizona fire has so far spread to about 6,000 acres. In 1947, the worst year recorded for total fires in New Hampshire, more than 80,000 acres burned.