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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

From property owner, relief that it wasn’t worse

WEST BRATTLEBORO—The day after a brush fire scorched most of her property, landowner Siiri Lane took a few minutes to speak after a long day and night.

“How amazing all these firefighters are,” she said Tuesday from her home on Ginseng Hill. “I get teary about it."

Lane called emergency services Monday to report the fire.

“I looked out the window, and it looked wrong,” she said of the landscape.

Lane owns some of the property that burned; the rest is owned by a neighbor.

No crucial buildings were damaged by the brush fire, except for a small outbuilding that she described as cute, but one that she could live without.

Lane said although she saw flames from her yard on Monday, she trusted that all would be safe.

“I love this land so much. This is my home,” said Lane, adding that she refused to allow images of destruction into her thoughts.

Lane and her family have lived on the property for 10 years. Very slowly, they’re returning it to a working farm.

Most of the land that burned yesterday is in the state’s forestry program, she said.

Within the past two years, foresters had harvested some of the wood and cut back brush, she said. Some piles of brush were left behind.

From what she witnessed, Lane said a pile of dry brush ignited after a downed power line fell upon it.

Lane wishes more power lines were underground. “What’s the issue with moving them under the ground?” she asked. “First off, they’re ugly to look at. Also, how often do they pose a risk of fire?”

Lane hopes the fire comes with a silver lining.

Years ago, the land was over-farmed, she said, noting that the brush fire could serve as an opportunity to nurture the land.

Lane is excited to move forward with integrating permaculture techniques on the area, including planting ginseng and other indigenous plants that benefit local wildlife.

She hopes that the animals will eat those plants and stay out of her garden, she adds.

The immensity of the fire and its potential for destruction still weighs on Lane.

“It could have been horrendous,” she said.

She can’t thank enough the firefighters who fought the blaze on Monday and continued on Tuesday to snuff out smoldering debris.

As Lane and her two children, Addie and Toby Peterson, made chili for the firefighters Monday evening, she said she felt touched by the community around her.

All are affected in a small community, from the neighbors calling to see which way the wind is blowing, to the volunteer firefighters, she said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #304 (Wednesday, May 6, 2015). This story appeared on page A2.

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