Exeter brush fire 80% contained, evacuation order lifted

EXETER, R.I. (WLNE)  — The brush fire tearing through a wooded area in Exeter is 80% contained and the evacuation order has been lifted, according to Rhode Island Emergency Management. According to Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee, the fire may spread to over 700 acres, which would make it the largest fire in the state’s history.

McKee said the fire is expected to be three to four times the size of the West Greenwich brush fire that kept firefighters busy Wednesday and Thursday.

A temporary shelter was opened at the Exeter Public Library for those who had to evacuate.

The fire started at about noon Friday near School Land Road and is believed to be moving northeast.

Students in the Exeter Job Corps were evacuated once it started spreading.

“It didn’t scare me, after a while I had a feeling like to were probably going to have to evacuate cause this is going to be bad,” Zion McLaren told ABC6 News.

Students in his class were first to see the smoke.

“I’d say around 1:30, 1:40ish whatever, some of our classmates had noticed there was like a large brush fire and we were like oh wow that’s crazy. I’m 22, you don’t hear of this in Rhode Island you hear of this in like California,” McLaren said.

Council President Dan Patterson told ABC 6 News the bulk of it is on natural conservancy land.

McKee said up to 200 firefighters were involved in Friday’s operations and went on to say he is grateful to the leadership of the incident commander, the Exeter Fire Department, and all the state and local agencies that responded to the scene.

Rhode Island National Guard’s Tweeted this video of Soldiers from the Guard as they prepared to provide aerial firefighting support. Aircrews from 1-126th Aviation were set to drop water from buckets suspended under UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The evacuation order around William Reynolds Road was lifted around 8 p.m.

ABC6 Reporter Natalie Noury was close to the fire and got this video of the helicopter in action, you can watch it here. 

This is a developing story.

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