Nine brush fires were reported along Route 34 in Derby and Oxford within minutes of each other Monday afternoon.
The brush fires are assumed to have been intentionally set — the latest in a spate of fires that have plagued the lower Valley in recent months.
Firefighters made quick work of the fires Monday and there were no injuries.
Fire officials in the region are coordinating in an effort to catch whoever is setting the blazes before the problem gets worse.
“It’s frustrating for the volunteer fire departments here. Hopefully, no one get hurts before we catch the person responsible,” Shelton Fire Marshal James Tortora said.
Shelton had about 12 similar brush fires in November and December, Tortora said.
A number of brush fires were reported in Derby just before 2:30 p.m. Monday in the area of Route 34 west of Lake View Terrace.
The blazes — eight in total — were concentrated on a leafy hillside above a retaining wall on Route 34. The land is owned by the state, part of Osbornedale State Park and the Kellogg Environmental Center.
Traffic on Route 34 was briefly diverted as four fire engines and the department’s brush truck responded and put out the fires before they were able to spread, Derby Assistant Chief Tom Lenart said at the scene.
Click the play button on the video above to see firefighters putting out one of the blazes.
A slideshow of photos from the scene is embedded below. Article continues after the photos.
Lenart said it’s impossible to say with 100 percent certainty that the fires were set deliberately, but that it would be “very unusual” for any other explanation to be the cause.
The fires were out by about 2:45 p.m. Crews remained on scene briefly to douse any hotspots but the road was open to traffic by just after 3 p.m.
About four miles up Route 34 in Oxford, a similar brush fire in the area of 501 Roosevelt Drive was reported minutes after those in Derby.
Oxford Fire Chief Scott Pelletier said at the scene that the fire, in an area about 50 by 75 feet and also on a leafy hillside off Route 34, was put out within minutes by crews from an engine tanker and brush truck.
He said Oxford would coordinate with Derby’s fire marshal to investigate the cause of Monday’s blaze. It’s been a recurring problem lately.
“A few months back we had three in a row. We’ve been having single ones on and off for the last month,” Pelletier said. “I know they’ve been having trouble in Orange. We’ll get to the bottom of it eventually.”
Monday’s Derby-Oxford brush fires come after a series of fires in November and December in Derby, Orange and Shelton.
Tortora, Shelton’s fire marshal, said police and fire marshals are trying to catch the person or people responsible.
“Back in November-December we had about a dozen or so in our own,” Tortora said.
He declined to discuss leads in the investigation, but said the state fire marshal’s office is also assisting.
“All jurisdictions are looking into it, actively,” Tortora said. “It’s not forgotten, but it’s hard to catch someone doing it.”
There is no set pattern as to how the fires are being set. The fires tend to be set within a few minutes of each other on busy roads in the Valley — Route 110, Route 34.
The fires pose a hazard to property — and to the firefighters responding to the scene.
“These are dangerous. These aren’t on small side roads. They’re on the major highways through town,” Tortora said.