Wildfire cleanup continues in Steuben

Posted July 12, 2012, at 1:25 p.m.

STEUBEN, Maine — A seven-acre wildfire discovered Wednesday night off Unionville Road likely was sparked by a lightning strike from a storm that passed through more than a week ago.

“That happens pretty regularly,” Maine Forest Service Lt. Jeff Currier said Thursday. “We call them ‘holdovers’ or ‘sleepers.’ We’ve seen them smolder for more than two weeks.”

A crew that included inmates from the minimum-security Down East Correctional Facility in Bucks Harbor and Steuben volunteer firefighters remained on the scene Thursday afternoon, putting out hotspots and taking down any smoldering trees.

“The goal is to secure the perimeter so the fire doesn’t break out again,” Currier said. “When you have the right conditions like we do now — low relative humidity, wind and warm temperatures — that’s a real possibility that we work hard to make sure doesn’t happen.”

Currier said it doesn’t take a prolonged drought to make wildfire conditions ripe for fires.

“If we go 10 to 14 days without appreciable rainfall, there will be fires,” he said. “There are 18 million acres of trees in Maine, which is the most heavily forested state, in terms of trees per acre. And in Maine we use our forests, not only for recreation but for wood product harvesting. The wildcard is always lightning.”

Currier said he has seen situations where a single thunderstorm generates enough lightning strikes to ignite 12 separate fires.

“We try to respond as quickly as possible to make sure these little fires don’t become big fires,” he said.