April 20, 2018
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Burlington camp fire not arson, forest service says

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

BURLINGTON, Maine — A fire that first appeared to be arson and burned about half an acre of woods off Madagascal Pond Road now looks to have been accidentally set, an investigator said Tuesday.

Reported on Friday afternoon, the fire appeared to be set in a camping area on a property near the west shore of Madagascal Pond, said Sgt. Peter Pelletier, a ranger with the Maine Forest Service.

Responders initially suspected arson partly because the fire didn’t appear to have a natural ignition source, but now suspect that a camper leaving the property might have failed to fully extinguish a campfire, Pelletier said.

“There is a human element there, but [arson] does not appear to be the case,” Pelletier said Tuesday.

Investigators plan to continue discussions with the camper and are urging anyone else with information to call them at 738-2601.

No structures were threatened by the blaze, which Burlington firefighters contained without incident.

On Friday, Maine Forest Service rangers had to fight or investigate more than 30 fires in grass or woods across the state. The past weekend’s rains provided some respite from the dry and windy conditions that helped cause the fires, but not much of one, Pelletier said. Only about two-tenths of an inch of rain fell over northern Maine, he said.

“That is just a temporary thing,” Pelletier said. “If we get one good day of dry weather, we will be right back where we were before. We will need a little more significant precipitation before the danger really passes.”

Fires along Interstate 95 and in a hayfield in Lincoln were among the most damaging in Pelletier’s patrol area — northern Penobscot County — that were caused by the dry weather over the last week.

Charges ranging from felony arson — if investigators find evidence of intentional destruction — to a summons for improper disposal of ignited materials, which carries fines and reimbursement for damage and firefighter costs, could result from fires that start in the dry weather, forest rangers have said.

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