JONESBORO, Maine — Lack of snow and rain, record-high temperatures and gusty winds are collectively creating conditions that are contributing to grass fires in coastal and mid-Maine areas.
The Down East Forest Protection Division of the Maine Forest Service was called to three such fires on Monday, one in the Hancock County community of Waltham and two in Washington County, in Steuben and Addison.
Two other wildfires also were extinguished Monday, one charring about a half acre in the Lincoln County community of Boothbay and another destroying a shed in the Somerset County community of Embden. Both were permit-approved fires that got out of control.
“It’s relatively dry for this time of year,” Ranger Sgt. Courtney Hammond, who works out of the division’s headquarters in Jonesboro, said Tuesday. “Lack of snow and rain has Down East, Maine, down to 50 percent of normal precipitation over the last 90 days, according to the weather service.
“We’re having an early spring, and it only takes one sunny day like we had yesterday to dry things out.”
Hammond said it’s unclear what sparked the fire off the Unionville Road in Steuben, which burned less than half an acre just after noon. The Addison fire on Crowley Island, which was reported at about 11 a.m., was started after an all-terrain vehicle that was being used for logging caught fire and was destroyed. Hammond said the Waltham fire, which was reported just after 2 p.m., was the result of a permitted debris fire getting out of hand.
Hammond said it’s essential that those wanting to burn debris obtain a permit and that they follow any restrictions.
“During April and May we encourage people not to burn until after 5 o’clock, as the winds die down and the temperature drops and it’s also a time when volunteer firefighters are most likely to be available,” he said. “People should have rakes and shovels and, if possible, a charged hose or buckets of water.”
Maine Forest Service Lt. Jeffrey Currier, who is with the Augusta branch of the Division of Forest Protection, said Tuesday that wildfires are a seasonal phenomenon and that he expects to be seeing more of them soon.
“These fires have been limited up to now, but it’s not going to be long before we are going from fire to fire to fire,” Currier said. “Eventually we will be putting up aircraft to search for fires, but we’re not at that point yet.”