NEWCASTLE, Maine — A Patriots Day tradition of touching off a cannon nearly turned disastrous Monday when the blast ignited pine needles and brush on Station Road.
Maine Forest Service Lt. Jeffrey Currier said the fire was extinguished quickly by the Newcastle Fire Department and personnel from the Maine Forest Service, who had just left the scene of a serious fire in Nobleboro that burned a home and attached garage flat overnight Sunday.
Currier said the Newcastle fire was ignited by the cannon’s wadding, which is material placed between the device’s gunpowder and cannon ball before firing.
“It comes out pretty hot,” said Currier.
The wadding hit some dry pine needles, which sparked a fire. The homeowner, James Hudson, immediately called 911.
“I’ve got to commend the guy. He was very quick,” said Currier. “He tried to extinguish the fire while he waited for fire crews to arrive, but it was just a little bit too much for him. The response was robust given the weather conditions and where it was.”
The quick response might have saved further damage to the woods and several nearby structures, said Currier, who described the cannon as about 3 feet long and made of solid steel. It fires a solid ball of steel approximately 4 inches in diameter.
“I’m sure it makes a pretty big bang,” said Currier.
Maine Forest Service Ranger Dan Skillin, who investigated the incident, determined that there will be no charges against Hudson because there is no law against firing a cannon.
Hudson could not be reached Monday afternoon.
The Maine Forest Service and local fire departments across Maine were stretched thin with brush fires over the weekend. Currier said higher humidity on Monday has slowed down the start of new fires,but noted Tuesday could see a return to more hazardous conditions, particularly in western Maine.