Crews from 8 towns fight Etna woods fire

Posted May 28, 2010, at 10:52 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:34 a.m.

ETNA, Maine — Crews from eight Penobscot County towns and the Maine Forest Service were called to an area along Route 143 on Friday to battle a stubborn woods fire that consumed an estimated 4 or 5 acres of forest.

Etna Fire Chief Walter Gibbons said the fire, located off the end of Pine Grove Lane, began between noon and 1 p.m. It was still actively burning several hours later.

Though the fire was brought under control by late afternoon, firefighters were still dealing with flare-ups Friday night, Gibbons said. The fire burned its way as deep as a foot into the dead vegetation on the ground, making it difficult to extinguish.

Gibbons did say, however, that firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to a nearby house.

He said a small group of firefighters would remain on fire watch at the scene overnight and that his plans were to reassemble Etna’s mutual aid partner crews in the morning to saturate the ground as a precaution.

According to Gibbons, the fire was reported to the Penobscot Regional Communications Center by personnel from the Maine Forest Service, who saw it from a helicopter.

“They could see the smoke from Old Town,” he said.

Gibbons said perhaps the biggest challenge was assembling the manpower needed to stop the fire because of the holiday weekend.

Gibbons said Etna firefighters were assisted by their counterparts from Carmel, Levant, Stetson, Newburgh, Newport, Detroit and Plymouth as well as by rangers from the Maine Forest Service.

The dry conditions on Friday also made it more difficult to fight the fire, Gibbons said.

“We’ve moved a significant amount of water today,” he said, adding that during the peak of the fire, 60 firefighters were on the scene and that seven tanker trucks and four brush trucks were hauling water into the woods.

Fire crews on the ground received a huge boost from state forest rangers, who dropped water on the area by aircraft, he said.

Gibbons said Friday that it was not clear how the fire started. He said the forest service was going to investigate.

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