CARMEL, Maine — A passing train is believed to have sparked a number of small fires along a mile or two of the railroad tracks between Fuller Road and the Souadabscook Stream around noon, Carmel Fire Chief Mike Azevedo said Tuesday evening.
“There was about 10 to 12 different spots that burned over a mile or 2-mile section south of Route 2,” he said. “On the Hermon side [of Route 2] there was three starts there.”
The majority of the fires, some that burned 100-foot stretches of ground, were located between Route 2 and the Fuller Road crossing, Azevedo said.
“At one point, we had two structures that were threatened,” he said. “I called Newburgh to come up and protect one of the houses, and Etna to come in and protect the other.
“Fortunately, no buildings were lost,” the chief said.
Stetson and Levant are automatic aid partners with Carmel, so available firefighters from those three towns went to the scene. The Hermon Fire Department was called because it has a brush truck.
Around 20 firefighters from the area fought the fires. No injuries were reported.
Forest Ranger Jerry Parsons, based in Old Town, stopped the train, which was heading toward Newport, to check for problems, Azevedo said.
“Whenever we have one of these, the train gets stopped so we can see what caused the fire,” he said, adding he did not know what Parsons deemed as the cause.
The Pan Am Railways line that passes though Carmel is cleared on both sides so “you can drive the whole length of it,” the chief said. “We’re pretty fortunate.”
Snowbanks along the railway line two weeks ago, when firefighters fought another series of fires along the tracks, made the path impassible by truck and fighting the fire much tougher on his crews, Azevedo said.
Fire officials are now in discussions with the railway line, the town and the Forest Service about having controlled burns along the tracks in the near future to prevent more fires, he said.
With patches of snow still on the ground in areas, it may be hard to believe that the ground is dry enough for grass and brush fires, but it is, Azevedo warned.
“I didn’t realize how dry it has become,” he said. “The ground is wet but there is very little frost and with the wind it dries out quick.”
He warned residents planning to have fires this spring to take extra precautions.
“It is starting to be dry season. Be careful,” he said.