May 22, 2018
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Grass, brush fire season gets an early start

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

HERMON, Maine — Though spring hasn’t officially sprung, at least according to the calendar, firefighters from several communities in the region have been busy putting out grass and brush fires.

On Monday alone, fire crews were called to about half a dozen such fires in Penobscot County in Carmel, Plymouth, Hermon and at the Hampden-Newburgh town line, and in Washington County in Perry and Northfield, local fire officials said.

“Usually, April is our [spring] burn month, from about mid-April through about the first of May,” Carmel Fire Chief Mike Azevedo said Monday.

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This year, however, the annual spring grass and brush fire season already is under way, largely because the area has had relatively little snow and rain, higher than average temperatures and heavy winds, Hermon fire Sgt. Bob DiBona said Monday.

“It’s very dry,” Hermon Fire Chief Larry Willis agreed Monday, adding that his department hasn’t issued any burn permits in the past week or so because of the dry and windy conditions.

“I still see people throwing [lit] cigarettes out their car windows and emptying their ashtrays on the ground,” Willis said.

“People need to be careful” with smoking materials, he said, especially along roadsides, which are some of the first places to dry up in the spring.

On Monday, firefighters were called to put out a midafternoon debris fire on Newburgh Road in Hermon. Though crews quickly brought the fire under control before it had a chance to spread, the fire did briefly threaten to ignite a garage being built on an uphill spot nearby, Willis said.

As Levant crews stood by and a Carmel tanker truck was en route to the Hermon fire, another one was reported off Interstate 95, near the Newburgh-Hampden line, Azevedo said.

The Carmel tanker was diverted to that fire, which burned a grassy area near Exit 174, between I-95’s northbound lanes and North Road in Newburgh, Azevedo said.

Firefighters from Hermon, Carmel and Newburgh had that fire out in less than an hour, he said. Thick smoke that blew across the interstate from the fire prompted emergency officials to close the affected section of highway for about 20 minutes.

In Washington County, three out-of-control grass or brush fires were reported Monday —two in Perry off Birch Point Road and the other in Northfield on Black Cow Meadow Road.

On Monday, Ranger Jerry Parsons of the Maine Forest Service said some of the recent fires, including the one off I-95 on Monday, likely were caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials.

He also noted that Mainers are eager to burn old grass, brush and other debris in their yards and fields.

He recommended that given the dry conditions, Mainers wait until the area has significant rainfall or until things start to “green up.”

BDN writer Sharon Kiley Mack contributed to this report.

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