GROTON -- A second fire to ravage privately owned conservation land along the Ayer line prompted selectmen to meet with the Conservation Commission to plan discussions with the Audubon Society on ways to prevent fires.
According to Fire Chief Joseph Bosselait, the latest incident began Oct. 25 and ended Oct. 28. Since then, however, the area remained under watch with fire smoldering 2-3 feet underground.
Bosselait said a cause has still not been determined. Equipment from nearby communities was called in at a cost of nearly $40,000.
The Fire Department encountered the same problems as a blaze that scoured the same area in 2010: the lack of ready access into the forest for firefighting vehicles and the need for water.
Together with a third forest fire that also occurred recently in the same part of town, Board of Selectmen Chairman Peter Cunningham accused the Audubon Society, which owns more than 400 acres of open land between Sandy Pond Road and Indian Hill Road, of not taking enough responsibility for the property.
Cunningham said because the Society restricts access to the property by the public, it loses many chances that a hiker or biker could spot a fire and report it before it has a chance to spread.
Suggesting that a network of fire roads through the property could be part of a solution, Cunningham said that the Society needed to take better care of its land.
Member Stuart Schulman added that the Society might seek to insure the land against fire to save local communities the expense, but that the question was less one of fighting the next fire than preventing fires in the first place.
"At the end of the day, it comes down to stewardship," said Cunningham.
Selectmen agreed to schedule a meeting with the Conservation Commission to discuss next steps and arrange a possible meeting with Audubon representatives to talk about the issue.