Harpswell firefighters suspect firecrackers to blame for dangerous woods blaze

Posted April 17, 2012, at 5:59 a.m.

HARPSWELL, Maine — Harpswell firefighters suspect that careless use of firecrackers on Sunday afternoon led to a dangerous blaze deep in the woods off Neils Point Road.

The dense forest near Two Coves Farm was nearly inaccessible to trucks and engines, so crews from Harpswell Neck, Cundy’s Harbor and the Orr’s and Bailey Island fire departments carried portable pumps and hose, chain saws and other tools by hand from the nearby shore, Harpswell Neck Fire Capt. Ron Chipman said today.

Chipman and his wife discovered the fire as they drove by just after 4 p.m., he said.

“We smelled smoke and started to investigate because we knew it was a Class 4 day and no burning was allowed,” he said. “We shot down a bunch of side roads, but had a hard time pinpointing it because it really was not visible.”

By the time the two located the blaze, near what was formerly Clem Dunning’s farm, “it had gotten going pretty good,” Chipman said.

Unable to get trucks to the scene, about 20 responding firefighters instead carried equipment down a nearby access road to the water and back up into the woods.

A number of nearby houses were at risk, he said, but were spared because the fire never spread into thick evergreen growth in the forest.

The blaze was knocked down about four hours later.

Chipman said witnesses reported young people yelling in the area and hearing firecrackers prior to the fire. The cause has not officially been determined, but he said, “There was no other source.”

“We don’t think they deliberately did it,” he said. “It was just carelessness.”

He praised firefighters who responded Sunday afternoon, noting, “A lot of guys were watching the Red Sox game, but they were able to leave and be there [at the scene].”

Also on Sunday afternoon, crews in Phippsburg, Woolwich, Freeport, Lisbon and West Bath doused brush fires in many of those towns.

About half an acre burned in the woods off Stoneybrook Lane in Phippsburg late Sunday afternoon, Phippsburg Fire Chief James Totman said today.

Officials continue to investigate the cause of the blaze, which was knocked out about a half-hour after it started.

For more from the Times Record, go to timesrecord.com.

 

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