PRINCETON, Maine — Two fires that appear to have been set intentionally burned less than an acre Sunday in a portion of a right of way that belongs to Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline.
A passer-by spotted the fires and notified the Maine Forest Service.
“Both burned less than an acre with no damage to the forest,” said Jeff Currier, district ranger of the Maine Forest Service. “More of a nuisance-type fire.” He said state officials did notify company officials.
The underground natural gas pipeline runs from Baileyville to Massachusetts.
Currier said the fire season, which usually begins in mid-March, started later this year because of all the snow. He said there have been 20 fires in Washington and Hancock counties since Friday.
“Of that 20, some were intentionally set, but most were caused by fires getting away from [people],” he said. “We’ve written a pretty good number of tickets over this past weekend for various open burning violations — everything from no permit issued to people that had a permit but didn’t adhere to the restrictions that the fire department put on it.”
Currier said it is up to those who request fire permits to check with their local fire department before they do any burning. “And once they get [the permit] they need to make sure they read it carefully to understand what the restrictions are,” he said.
The Maine Forest Service recommends that people wait and burn after 5 p.m.
“Primarily, what happens after 5 p.m. [is that] the temperature has dropped enough so that fires won’t burn as intensely,” he said. “The wind generally will drop down … and the relative humidity goes up, so the fire conditions become more favorable for people to control their fires.”
Asked how there could be so many fires over the weekend given the frequent rain recently Down East, Currier said it was not unusual for that to happen this time of year. “A lot of the fuels that are burning are called fine fuels, the dead grasses and leaves and that sort of stuff. And while they are easily dampened with a small amount of rain they quickly dry out. It may have showered the night before, but a couple of hours of warm temperatures from the sun and wind and it’s dried right out again.”
Although it may start out as a grass fire, Currier said, a surprising number of structures have been lost over the years. A small fire can end up burning hundreds of acres.
“In the recent past in Addison, Steuben and Centerville we’ve had fires that have burned several hundred acres in a couple of hours during this spring fire season,” he said.
Currier said the fire season is broken into parts.
“Our fire season is pretty much broken into the spring season — April-May. Then we go through a green-up period in June. Then in July, August and September and sometimes into October we have our real fire season where we have the bigger forest fires,” he said.