Marlborough firefighters battle brush fire in the Desert


Marlborough firefighters battle brush fire in the Desert
Crews are responding to a brush fire in the Desert. (Photo/Tami White)

UPDATE: Fire officials believe the fire is contained as of Sunday evening.

MARLBOROUGH – The resources of the Marlborough Fire Department were put to the test on Friday as firefighters battled a brush fire burning deep in the woods in the Desert Conservation Area off Concord Road. 

At the end of Friday, fire officials estimated the brush fire spread over 10 acres. On Sunday, Marlborough Fire Department wrote on Facebook that a total of 25 acres was burned.

Crews were still fighting the fire on Saturday and Sunday. By Sunday afternoon, the fire department said the fire was contained, though crews would still extinguish hot spots until there was significant rain.

“The fire was difficult to access. Fire personnel had to cut down trees and clear brush to allow brush fire units to gain access to the fire,” said Marlborough Assistant Chief Jeff Emanuelson on Friday.

The Marlborough, Hudson and Sudbury Fire Departments were all dispatched to smoke investigations in the area on the morning of August 19, but nothing was found.

The fire was reported by a pilot flying over the area, who saw the “loom up” – which is a large column of smoke – on his way to Hanscom Field. 

Marlborough fire units responded to the area. The fire was burning about a mile into the woods. The box for the Desert fire was struck at 12:47 p.m. to recall personnel and bring in mutual aid from neighboring fire departments.  

Due to the drought conditions, the fire was not only burning on the forest floor but also deep underground, following old root systems.  Marlborough Engines 1, 3, Rescue 1, Cars 2, 3 and 5 and the MFD’s ATV unit responded initially, and the two reserve pumpers, Engine 4 and 5 that were staffed by recalled personnel also responded to the fire. 

What is the Desert

The Desert is approximately 615 acres and received its name from the glacial deposits of sand. 

The Desert borders the towns of Hudson and Sudbury via the Marlborough-Hudson State Forest and the Sudbury Valley Trustees conservation land. The total land area for all three is approximately 900 acres and is home to many forms of wildlife.


Due to the size of the and location of the fire, two brush fire strike teams from Fire District 14 – which is made up of 23 communities, including Marlborough – were activated, as well as units from the District 14 Forest Fire Control that are based in Hopkinton. 

The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services also responded, bringing the Incident Rehabilitation unit and the ATV support unit to the scene.  Patriot EMS had an ambulance staged in case of any injury to fire personnel.

The command post was set up at the entrance to the Desert.

According to Assistant Chief Jeff Gogan, a second flank was set up off of Turner Ridge Road to serve as another access point to the fire.  

Over 900 feet of large diameter hose was laid into the woods from a hydrant on Turner Ridge to supply fire lines.

A helicopter from the Massachusetts State Police Air Wing helped with mapping the fire area and using their infrared cameras to find hot spots. 

“The fire units were going to be pulled out of the area before dusk for firefighter safety, the fire is basically contained,” Emanuelson said on Friday. “We will be going back in Saturday and finish the extinguishment.”

Southborough Fire provided station coverage.  

By Sunday evening, fire officials believed the fire was contained.

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