June 25, 2018
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Bangor woods fire slows I-95 traffic

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A cloud of thick, black smoke started to fill the air behind Sam’s Club around 2:25 p.m. Sunday and responding fire crews had to set up a command post on Interstate 95, just north of the Hogan Road on-ramp.

“They had to walk in from there,” Assistant Bangor Fire Chief Rick Cheverie said Sunday evening. “It’s a remote area about a quarter-mile to a half-mile off the road. That makes it difficult to get into it.”

The fire was knocked down and contained by 4:30 p.m. but crews were still at the scene looking for hot spots, he said.

“We couldn’t get access to the fire scene” with any vehicle, which means firefighters lugged in the water they used, he said, adding that the fire scene was so remote that “we had to send a scout in and flag the route.”

A relief crew was sent in to relieve the initial crew early Sunday evening, Cheverie said.

Passers-by and a Civil Air Patrol pilot spotted the fire and called for help, Cheverie and Maine Forest Service dispatcher Brian McLaughin said.

“Just as soon as they took off from Bangor, they reported that to us,” McLaughin said.

Shortly afterward, a Forest Service helicopter scooped up water from the Penobscot River and dumped it onto the fire, he said.

“Our helicopter did drop water on it,” McLaughin said. “They dropped a few buckets and are all done and are heading back,” he said around 3:30 p.m.

The helicopter “also transported our Ranger helitack crew to the scene to assist the Bangor firefighters,” Regional Ranger Jeffrey Currier said in an e-mail.

The fire is one of several reported to the Forest Service on Sunday, he said.

“Fires in Starks, Fairfield and one in the Greenville area have kept Rangers and firefighters busy today,” Currier said in the 6 p.m. e-mail. “Currently, a Ranger Helitack Crew and helicopter are en route to a fire reported on the Appalachian Trail west of Millinocket.”

A helitack crew is three rangers who reach wildfires by helicopter.

“They are equipped with firefighting gear and can get to fires anywhere in the state very quickly given the helicopter’s speed,” Currier said.

The Bangor fire initially was reported as a small grass fire, but quickly became a woods fire, burning trees, leaves and dry brush, Cheverie said.

A dozen Veazie Fire Department firefighters and Air National Guard Station 3 tanker and crew assisted Bangor firefighters, and Brewer Fire Department personnel provided backup for Bangor’s Central Fire Station.

No injuries were reported in the fire that burned “multiple acres,” Cheverie said.

Forest Ranger Jerry Parsons estimated the fire burned 3 acres.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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