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CAPE COD BRUSH BREAKERS 

~ History of Cape Cod's Unique Forest Firefighting Apparatus ~
Originally posted January 2001 - Completely Rebuilt January 2022
Page Updated March 8, 2022
 

MAIN INDEX PAGE
BRUSH & FOREST FIRE APPARATUS HISTORY


 

CONTENTS
Start This Page


HISTORY
| The Story of Brush Breakers | By Years
 

FIRE DEPARTMENTS
| Barnstable County | The Islands | Plymouth County | More |
 

APPARATUS BY TYPE
| Aircraft | Brush Breakers | Forestry & Patrol | Tankers | More |  
 

FIRES INDEX
| Cape Cod | The Islands | Plymouth County | More |  
 

NEWS & RECENT UPDATES
| News | Recent Updates | More |
 

 

 


PAGE CONTENTS


01 - HISTORY - THE STORY OF BRUSH BREAKERS
02 - HISTORY - By Years
03 - FIRE DEPARTMENTS - Barnstable County
04 - FIRE DEPARTMENTS - The Islands
05 - FIRE DEPARTMENTS - Plymouth County
06 - FIRE DEPARTMENTS - More
07 - APPARATUS - Air Craft
08 - APPARATUS - Brush Breakers
09 - APPARATUS - Forestry & Patrol
10 - APPARATUS - Tankers
11 - APPARATUS - More
12 - FIRES - Cape Cod
13 - FIRES - The Islands
14 - FIRES - Plymouth County
15 - FIRES - More
16 - NEWS
17 - UPDATES
18 - MORE
 
 

01

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HISTORY - THE STORY OF BRUSH BREAKERS
          
A look back at some of the significant incidents & apparatus

 
THE STORY
Page 1 - The Story of Cape Cod Brush Breakers
FIRES
Page 2 - The Cape Cod Forest Fire Problem
Page 3 - Historic Cape Cod Forest Fires
Page 4 - The 1946 Cape Cod Forest Fire Burned 15,000 Acres
Page 5 - The 1965 Cape Cod Forest Fire Jumped Route 6
Page 6 - Plymouth County Forest Fires
Page 7 - Some of the More Recent Forest Fires
THE DANGER
Page 8 - The Fire Danger - Firefighter Memorial for 3 Killed in 1937
Page 9 - Fire Prevention - Only You!
Page 10 - Fire Education - Smokey Bear
SPOTTING FIRES
Page 11 - Spotting Forest Fires - Fire Towers
Page 12 - Spotting Fires - Fire Patrol Planes
Page 13 - Locating Fires - Fire Patrol Trucks
APPARATUS
Page 14 - Early Firefighting - By Hand
Page 15 - Early Fire Apparatus
Page 16 - First Brush Breakers
Page 17 - Barnstable County Brush Breakers
Page 18 - State Forest Fire Trucks
Page 19 - On The Islands - Brush Trucks
Page 20 - Plymouth County Brush Trucks
BRUSH BREAKERS
Page 21 - Brush Breakers Working
Page 22 - The Hey Day of Brush Breakers
Page 23 - Tankers and Other Support Vehicles
Page 24 - Brush Breaker Forest Fire Training
Page 25 - The Newest Apparatus
Page 26 - The END TIMES

 
 

02

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HISTORY - BY YEARS
          
A look back in time.
 
1800s
1900s
1910s
1920s
1930s
1940s
1950s
1960s
1970s
1980s
1990s
2000s
2010s
2020s
 

 

 

03

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FIRE DEPARTMENTS - BARNSTABLE COUNTY
          
Cape Cod Fire Departments Past and Present
 
Barnstable County - Forest Fire Department - 1939-1982
Barnstable Town - TOB Forest Fire Department - 1920s-1970s
Barnstable - Fire District
Bourne - Fire Department
Brewster - Fire Department
CCNS - Cape Cod National Seashore Fire Service
COMM - Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire District
Cotuit - Fire District
DCR - Massachusetts State Forest Fire District 1 - Barnstable County
Dennis - Fire Department
Eastham - Fire Department
Falmouth - Fire Department
Harwich - Fire Department
Hyannis - Fire District
Mashpee - Fire Department
Orleans - Fire Department
Otis AFB - Camp Edwards - MMR - Joint Base Cape Cod - Fire Department
Provincetown - Fire Department
Sandwich - Fire Department
Truro - Fire Department
Wellfleet - Fire Department
West Barnstable - Fire District
Yarmouth - Fire Department
 
 

04

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FIRE DEPARTMENTS - THE ISLANDS
          
Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket Fire Departments

Aquinnah - Gay Head Fire Department
Chilmark Fire Department
Edgartown Fire Department
Gay Head - Aquinnah Fire Department
Gosnold - Cuttyhunk - Elizabeth Islands Fire Department
Massachusetts - State Forest Fire District 1 - Dukes & Nantucket Counties
Oak Bluffs Fire Department
Tisbury Fire Department
West Tisbury Fire Department 

Nantucket Fire Department

 
 

05

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FIRE DEPARTMENTS - PLYMOUTH COUNTY
          
Plymouth County Fire Departments

Carver Fire Department
Duxbury Fire Department
Kingston Fire Department
Lakeville Fire Department
Marion Fire Department
Massachusetts - State Forest Fire District 2 - Plymouth County
Mattapoisett Fire Department
Middleborough Fire Department
Onset Fire District
Plymouth Fire Department
Plympton Fire Department
Rochester Fire Department
Rochester Fire Department
Wareham Fire District
Wareham Town - Forest Fire Department
 
 
 

06

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FIRE DEPARTMENTS - MORE
          
Other Forest Fire Departments
 
 
 

07

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APPARATUS - AIR CRAFT
          
Other Forest Fire Departments

1960s - P18 - Barnstable County Airplane
1960s - P10 - Plymouth County Airplane
 
 

08

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APPARATUS - BRUSH BREAKERS
          
Other Forest Fire Departments

1934 - FF Patrol -    - Sandwich - Ford Fire Truck first with bars
1936 - Breaker -       - Camp Edwards - Chevy/Homemade 450 Gals
1937 - Breaker - 216 - Town of Barnstable - OST - Ford/Starck - 800 Gal
1938 - Breaker - 143 - Sandwich - Ford/Robinson - 1000 Gal
1939 - Breaker - 25   - State Dist 2 - Myles - Ford/Robinson 1000 Gal
1939 - Breaker - No.1 - Barnstable County No.1 - Ford/Robinson - 1000 Gal
1939 - Forestry -        - State Dist 1 - Shawme - Ford Forestry 600 Gal
1939 - Forestry -        - State Dist 1 - Vineyard - Ford Forestry

1941 - Breaker - 11   - Bourne - Milt Scout Car 4x4
1941 - Forestry -       - State Dist 1 - Nickerson - Ford Forestry 600 Gal
1942 - Breaker - No.2 - Barnstable County No.2 - Ford/Robinson - 1000 Gal
1943 - Breaker - 9     - Bourne - Chevy Milt 4x4 - 400 Gal
1944 - Breaker - 14   - Otis AFB - Diamond T - 1000 Gal
1944 - Breaker - 7     - Bourne - Chevy Milt 4x4 - 600 Gal
1946 - Breaker - 30   - Falmouth - Dodge PW - 300 Gal
1947 - Breaker - 215 - Town of Barnstable - COT - Dodge PW - 300 Gal
1948 - Breaker - 212 - Town of Barnstable - CENT - Milt 4x4 - 450 Gal
1949 - Breaker - C13 - Barnstable County No.3 - Ford/Robinson - 650 Gal ORL
1949 - Breaker - 8     - Bourne - Ford - 600 Gal
1949 - Breaker - 9     - Bourne -

1950 - Breaker - 5     - Harwich - Ford/Robinson - 6x6 - 1000 Gal
1951 - Breaker - C12 - Barnstable County No.4 - Ford/Robinson - 700 Gal DEN
1952 - Breaker - 216 - Town of Barnstable - OST - Ford/Starck - 800 Gal
1954 - Breaker - 3     - Chilmark - Ford/Robinson - 750/750
195_ - Breaker - 5     - Plymouth - Manomet - Dodge
195_ - Breaker -        - Plymouth - Dodge
1954 - Breaker - 24   - State Dist 2 - Myles - Ford - Yogi
1955 - Combo  - E2  - Tisbury - Ford/Maxim 500/500
1956 - Breaker - 2     - Edgartown - Ford F800/Maynard 750/800
1957 - Breaker - C15 - Barnstable County No.1 - Ford/Maxim 800 Gal FAL
1957 - Breaker - 250  - Mashpee - No.3 - 1942 Ford - Former County No.1
1957 - Breaker - 253  - Mashpee - No.1 - Inter/Maynard 750/800
1958 - Breaker - C14 - Barnstable County No.2 - Maxim 800 Gal W BARN
1958 - Breaker - No1 - Gay Head - No.1 - 1939 Ford/Robinson 125/1000
1959 - Breaker - E2    - West Tisbury - Ford/Maynard 4x4 750/800
 

1960 - Breaker - C13 - Barnstable County - No. 3 - 800 Gal ORL
1960 - Breaker - 14  - Otis AFB - 1953 Reo Milt 6x6 1000 Gal
1960 - Breaker - 19  - Otis AFB - 1950s Milt 6x6 1000 Gal
1962 - Breaker - 212 -Town of Barnstable - CENT - Inter/Maxim 250/500
1963 - Breaker - C12 - Barnstable County - No.4 - 800 Gal DENN
1964 - Breaker - 64  - Lakeville FF2 - International-Maxim
1964 - Breaker - 1    - Marion E5 (127) - International-Maxim
196_ - Breaker - 85  - Freetown, MA - International
1964 - Breaker - 6    - State Dist 1 - Shawme - FWD-Farrar 1000 Gal
1964 - Breaker - 18  - State Dist 2 - Myles Standish - FWD-Farrar 1000 Gal
1965 - Breaker - 5    - State Dist 1 - Shawme - FWD-Farrar 1000 Gal
1966 - Breaker - 19  - State Dist 2 - Myles Standish - FWD-Farrar 1000 Gal
1965 - Breaker - 8    - Wareham FF8 - Jeep  (later FF3 - 403)
1965 - Breaker - 142 - Sandwich B1 - Dodge-Maynard
1966 - Breaker - 143 - Sandwich B2 - Dodge-Maynard
1967 - Breaker - 254 - Mashpee E4 - International/Thibault 750/1100
1967 - Breaker - 216 - Town of Barnstable - Osterville - Maxim 1000 Gal
1967 - Breaker - 23   - Carver - International-Farrar
1967 - Breaker - 176 - Plymouth FF6 - International-Farrar
1968 - Breaker - 177 - Plymouth FF7 - International-Farrar
1968 - Breaker - 5     - State Dist 1 - Shawme -  International-Farrar
1968 - Breaker -        - Wareham - GMC-Maxim   (later Rochester 195)
1969 - Breaker - 8     - Otis AFB - Kaiser Mil
1969 - Breaker - 215 - Town of Barnstable - Cotuit - Dodge  (later 267)

1970 - Breaker - 8    - Bourne Eng 8 - Dodge PW Brush Breaker - Burned 1975
1970 - Breaker - 173 - Plymouth FF3 - International-Farrar
1971 - Breaker - 110 - Dennis T1 - Dodge  (later Nantucket)
1971 - Breaker - C15 - Barnstable County No.1 - International/Thibault FAL
1972 - Breaker - 9     - Otis AFB - Gibson Mil
1973 - Breaker - 153 - Sandwich - 1953 Studebaker-Young
1975 - Breaker - 128 - Bourne No.8 - 1967 Kaiser-Young
1975 - Breaker - 128 - Bourne No.8 - 1967 Kaiser-Young
1976 - Breaker - 20   - Falmouth - Dodge-Continental
1976 - Breaker - 131 - Chilmark - Ford/Farrar 250/750
1976 - Breaker - 171 - Plymouth FF1 - International-Farrar
1977 - Breaker - 130 - Bourne B-10 - 1953 International 6x6  (Orig Otis breaker)
1977 - Breaker - 130 - Bourne No.10 - 1953 International Mil
1977 - Breaker - 204 - Barnstable - 1952 Reo-Young "Iron Lion"
1978 - Breaker - 1    - Wareham FF1 - Ford-Farrar
1978 - Breaker -       - Wareham FF    - Ford-Farrar
1979 - Breaker - 176 - Plymouth FF6 - International-Farrar

1980 - Breaker 142 - Sandwich B1 - 1967 Kaiser-Young
1980s - Breaker 124 - Marion FF2 - Mil-Young
1980s - Breaker 1 - Raynham - 1968 Jeep
1982 - Breaker 295 - County/West Barnstable - '67 Inter/Young 1000 Gal WBFD
1982 - Breaker 30 - Falmouth - Ford-Farrar  (later B16)
1984 - Breaker 1 - Middleboro FF1 - International/Maxim
1986 - Breaker 129 - Bourne B9 - 1952 Reo
1988 - Breaker 47 - Duxbury - International-Maxim
1988 - Breaker 48 - Duxbury - International-Maxim

1990 - Breaker 194 - Rochester - 1984 Chevy
1990 - Breaker 172 - Plymouth FF2 - International-Murphy  (later 177)
1991 - Breaker 27 - Carver - International-Murphy
1991 - Breaker 376 - Wareham - 1978 Kaiser-Murphy  (later 402)
1991 - Breaker 175 - Plymouth - International-Murphy
1992 - Breaker 6 - State - Dist 1 - Shawme - International-Murphy
1992 - Breaker 74 - Kingston - International-Murphy
1992 - Breaker 178 - Plymouth FF8 - International-Murphy
1992 - Breaker 174 - Plymouth FF4 - International-Murphy
1993 - Breaker 179 - Plymouth FF9 - International-Murphy
1995 - Breaker 374 - Wareham FF4 - 1970 Kaiser-Murphy  (later 404)
1995 - Breaker 8 - Otis ANGB - 1983 AM General
1995 - Breaker 9 - Otis ANGB - 1976 Gibson
1997 - Breaker 85 - Lakeville FF1 - International-V-Tech
1997 - Breaker 149 - Onset F9 - Ford
1998 - Breaker 29 - Carver - International-Murphy
1998 - Breaker 6 - State - Dist 1 - Shawme - 1972 AM General-V-Tech
1998 - Breaker 19 - State - Dist 2 - Myles Standish - 1975 AM General-V-Tech
1999 - Breaker 173 - Plymouth Ff3 - International-Murphy
1999 - Breaker 28 - Carver - International-Murphy

2000 - Breaker 147 - Onset F7 - 1974 Mil   (later 148)
2001 - Breaker 353 - Mashpee - 1971 AM General-VTech
2001 - Breaker 129 - Bourne B9 - 1971 Jeep
2001 - Breaker 267 - Cotuit - International-Murphy
2001 - Breaker 75 - Kingston FF2 - Ford-Greenwood
2001 - Breaker 127 - Bourne - 1974 Mil
2001 - Breaker 127 - Bourne B7 - 1974 Mil 4x4 Brush Breaker
2002 - Breaker 461 - Sandwich - 1978 Mil-Sandwich FD
2002 - Breaker 463 - Sandwich - 1952 Reo rebuilt by Sandwich FD
2002 - Breaker 235 - Brewster - 1959 Kaiser-Greenwood
2003 - Breaker 172 - Plymouth Ff2 - Freightliner-Murphy
2004 - Breaker 194 - Rochester - International-Broduer
2005 - Breaker 354 - Mashpee - International-Plymax
2005 - Breaker 175 - Plymouth - Freightliner-Murphy
2005 - Breaker 375 - Plymouth - 1991 International-Murphy  (former 175)
2006 - Breaker 732 - West Tisbury - Sterling-Murphy
2007 - Breaker 731 - West Tisbury - 1972 AM General-VTech (former State B6)
2008 - Breaker 131 - Chilmark - 2008 Freightliner/Bulldog 250/750

2012 - Breaker 128 - Bourne - 1959-71 Kaiser Mil 6x6 Breaker-Tanker
                                (was Brewster 235)
2013 - Breaker 27 - Carver - International-V-Tech
2014 - Breaker 129 - Bourne - 1996 Mil 6x6 Brush Breaker

 
 
 

09

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APPARATUS - FORESTRY & PATROL
          
Other Forest Fire Departments
 
 
 
 

10

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APPARATUS - TANKERS
          
Other Forest Fire Departments
 
 
 
 

11

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APPARATUS - MORE
          
Other Forest Fire Departments
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 





 



 


| MAIN | HISTORY | FIRES | APPARATUS | DEPARTMENTS | YEARS |

01 - MAIN PAGE
01 - MAIN PAGE
01 - MAIN PAGE
 

ON THIS PAGE

1 - INTRODUCTION
2 - ABOUT BRUSH BREAKERS
3 - BRIEF HISTORY
4 - FOREST FIRES
5 - FIRE TOWERS
6 - APPARATUS
7 - DEPARTMENTS
8 - NEWEST TRUCKS
9 - PLANNING
10 - YEARS
 
 
 

1 - INTRODUCTION 

 

WELCOME
     Welcome to this Special Feature about Cape Cod Brush Breakers and all things related.

THIS FEATURE
     The Brush Breaker Feature was one of the first Special Features posted on CapeCodFD.com. It quickly grew to many pages. A few years back, a little website catastrophy resulted in this feature going off line. Rebuilding the feature and doing so in a way that would be more manageable has taken much longer than anticipated.

NAVIGATING
     Part of the rebuild included making it easier to reference particular apparatus or information. Using the Navigation tabs at the top of the page will get you to more specific pages with many photos and history of specific apparatus or departments. 

 
 
 

2 - ABOUT BRUSH BREAKERS 

 

ABOUT BRUSH BREAKERS
     In the 1930's, as motor vehicles became large and strong enough to carry greater weights, fire departments on Cape Cod, the Islands, and the general Southeastern part of Massachusetts began building fire apparatus that could carry more water to remote areas to battle brush and forest fires. By adding protection for the vehicles, and enabling them to go off road and in some cases drive through the pine woods to reach and extinguish fires, the BRUSH BREAKER was born. 
 

 

 
 

3 - BRIEF HISTORY  

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FOREST FIRES    
     Many years ago Cape Cod (Barnstable County, Massachusetts) was much less populated. The peninsula was thickly covered by pitch pines trees and other forestation that would often burn. Typically the early spring (March to May) were the prime fire season as conditions and weather allowed wildland fires to grow and spread rapidly. These forest fires could burn thousands of acres in a matter of hours.

EARLY FIREFIGHTING
     Prior to the formation of many of the fire departments, brush and forest fires were fought by hand as appointed Forest Wardens in various towns would recruit men to battle the flames.

FIRE TOWERS
     One of the early steps to counter the rapid growth of forest fires was to discover them while they were still small. Fire Towers, elevated observation sites located on the high points across the area, were constructed and staffed to spot smoke from fires as they started. By using a system, observers in a couple fire towers could "line up" a smoke and by crossing the lines provide a fairly good location for fire departments to respond to.

FIRE TRUCKS
     Many communities started out with pickup trucks serving as Forest Fire Patrol Trucks that carried small amounts of water and some hand tools. Some carried water fire extinguishers that could be carried into the woods.

     Communities build fire trucks specifically for forest fire fighting that had larger water tanks and extended length of forestry hose that could be dragged into the woods.

BRUSH BREAKERS
     The early brush breakers were trucks that had steel bars and other protection that enabled the trucks to push over smaller brush and trees to access fires off road. Hundreds of gallons of water, or more, and pumps that could operate while the apparatus drove into or around fires, made brush breakers very effective in quickly reaching fires and putting them out before they could get too large.

     Fires often grew larger than one or two trucks could handle. Cape Cod developed a mutual aid system which could activate many departments and get groups of brush breakers to work on fires together to overcome and control large fires. Often larger fires brought groups of brush breakers from Barnstable County to Plymouth and Bristol County fires, and groups of brush breakers from those counties to fight fires on Cape Cod.

MODERN DAY
     The larger fires seem to have been reduced over the recent decades. Larger populations and early notification of fires have reduced the number of larger fires. Older brush breakers have been retired and in some cases not replaced. The approaches to fighting wild land fires have changed and less brush breakers are employed today than once were. Who knows how future forest fires may affect those communities. Time will tell.

REMEMBERING BRUSH BREAKERS
     No matter the future, the history of Brush Breakers on Cape Cod and in southeastern Massachusetts is an important and unique part of history that is well remembered.

     Enjoy this feature.


 





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

4 - FOREST FIRES 

 

FOREST FIRES
     Cape Cod and southeastern Massachusetts have a long history of many major forest fires. Some burned only woodlands. Other fires impacted farms, homes, and businesses with devastating consequences. The response to many of these large fires brought assistance from many departments across the region. Some burned for days.

     The worst of these fires resulted in a number of firefighters being killed. Those people are remembered in local memorials. Other fires resulted in the destruction and burning of brush trucks. The danger of these fires is difficult to explain to someone who has not experienced them. Fires can move very quickly and erratically with shifting winds.

     Some of the historic fires are documented and shared on these pages.  

BRUSH FIRES
     The term forest fires tends to address the largest of fires. In common local terminology, most of the fires are referred to as brush fires. Brush Breakers, forestry trucks, tanker/tenders, and other apparatus are all part of the response to such incidents.
 


In May 1965, a major forest fire swept across the Upper Cape area from the Camp Edwards area towards downtown Sandwich. It burned thousands of acres in a few hours and jumped over the Route 6 Mid-Cape Highway before being stopped.


A brush breaker from the Otis Fire Department prepares to go to work as the May 1965 fire is about to jump Route 6 the Mid-Cape Highway.

 
 

5 - FIRE TOWERS  

 

FIRE TOWERS
     One of the earliest and most effective means of detecting and reporting brush and forest fires was the use of elevated Fire Towers that were placed on the highest elevations and had good views of any smoke or fires that occurred. Well before the modern technology was available, the use of binoculars, a telephone line, a radio, and some basic maps, men and women who worked in fire towers would keep a sharp eye out for any signs of smoke of fire as it began.

     This feature shows a number of the fire towers and how they were used on Cape Cod.
 


One of the earliest built, the BARNSTABLE FIRE TOWER c.1919 overlooked the middle of Cape Cod from a high elevation on Shootflying Hill in West Barnstable.


Several fire towers were built across Cape Cod. This is an old photo of the FALMOUTH TOWER.


The fire tower is a basic, low technology means of spotting and reporting smoke and fires as they begin. The tower operator would keep a sharp eye out using binoculars and a well developed under standing of the area they were responsible for monitoring.


The center of the fire tower is the area map and the system used to determine the compass barring "line" on where the base of the smoke is located.


As the fire tower operator lines up the smoke, it can be lined up on a map in the tower or fire station. As a second or third line is added, the fire location can be pinpointed and apparatus can be told where to respond to locate it.

 

 
 

6 - APPARATUS  

 

     Welcome to this Special Feature about Cape Cod Brush Breakers and all things related.
 
 
 

7 - DEPARTMENTS  

 

     Welcome to this Special Feature about Cape Cod Brush Breakers and all things related.
 
 
 

8 - NEWEST TRUCKS 

 

     Welcome to this Special Feature about Cape Cod Brush Breakers and all things related.
 
 
 

9 - PLANNING  

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     Welcome to this Special Feature about Cape Cod Brush Breakers and all things related.
 
 
 

10 - YEARS 

 

     Welcome to this Special Feature about Cape Cod Brush Breakers and all things related.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cape Cod Brush Breakers

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