Presque Isle man arrested in connection with 3 wildfires

Posted April 23, 2012, at 5:01 p.m.
Last modified April 23, 2012, at 5:36 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A 23-year-old man has been charged in connection with three small wildfires that were set in the city earlier this month.

According to information provided Monday by Maine Forest Service Lt. Bill Greaves, Chad Hamilton was charged with one count of felony aggravated criminal mischief and three counts of criminal mischief for allegedly starting the fires.

Forest Ranger Steve Wipperman said Hamilton became the focus of the investigation of the fires early on. All of the fires occurred in the city adjacent to the town’s ATV trail.

Wipperman said physical evidence found at the fire scenes prompted them to charge Hamilton.

The investigator also used footage from a business surveillance camera to aid in the investigation.

The first fire occurred the evening of April 7 and was located on the ATV trail known as the Maysville Connector, burning a quarter-acre. The second was on the morning of April 13, in a location between the Veterans of Foreign Wars building and Bonville Airs Trailer Park. The fire burned a half-acre of brush before it was contained. The third wildfire also was located on the ATV trail and started on the evening of April 16. That fire burned nearly 1 acre of grass and brush.

Greaves said the fires were reported and extinguished quickly by the Presque Isle Fire Department, so damage was limited to brush.

“There were structures near all three scenes, however, and we consider any wildfire to be dangerous,” Greaves said.

Forest rangers also credited firefighters who made some key observations when arriving at one of the fires and preserved some evidence from the scene.

Hamilton will be arraigned at Presque Isle District Court in July. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison on the charge of aggravated criminal mischief and up to one year on each charge of criminal mischief.

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