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Saturday, April 15, 2023

Exeter fire expected to burn 700 acres

Giant plume of smoke over the area on Friday

By Christopher Shea, Rhode Island Current

 Flames overtake a forest in Exeter Friday afternoon. (Photo courtesy IAFF Local 3328/Twitter)

Around 20 Exeter residents were temporarily evacuated from their homes Friday as emergency crews battle a massive brush fire expected to burn 700 acres.

As of 8 p.m., the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) said the fire was 80% contained.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I had noted earlier on Friday that our weather caused a "Red Flag" fire warning, as well as very high tree pollen counts and our first "unhealthy air" ozone warning. 

This fire apparently consumed a large amount of Nature Conservancy land, as this message today notes:

From Tim Mooney of The Nature Conservancy:
The brush fire that occurred in Exeter on April 14 burned across much of TNC’s Queen’s River Preserve. The fire is more than 80% contained, but the response is ongoing and it remains a dangerous situation. As requested by the Exeter Emergency Management Director, the preserve will be closed for at least three days. At that time, TNC staff will assess trail conditions and figure out what to do next. Please respect this closure for your own safety. This is an unprecedented situation for TNC’s Rhode Island chapter and extensive tree-cutting may be necessary to make the preserve safe again. We will continue to share updates with Rachel and on social media. 

RIEMA issued the alert Friday afternoon for the area of William Reynolds Road near Route 102. The agency said the fire is three to four times the size of the West Greenwich fire earlier in the week and is expected to cover 700 acres.

A temporary shelter was set up for evacuees at the Exeter Public Library and later Exeter-West Greenwich High School. As of 5 p.m., the governor’s office said it housed 20 people at the high school.

In a tweet, McKee wrote that National Guard crews plan to drop water from helicopters, similar to how crews dealt with the fire in West Greenwich the day prior.

Our team is responding to a large fire in Exeter — I’ve just been briefed on the latest.

Right now, we’re asking Rhode Islanders to stay away and not fly drones in the area while the firefighting operations occur.

— Governor Dan McKee (@GovDanMcKee) April 14, 2023

McKee tweeted that he’s been briefed on the fire and is asking Rhode Islanders to “stay away and not fly drones in the area while the firefighting operations occur.”

This story has been updated to include the status of the fire as of 8 p.m. Friday.



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