No charges will be filed in string of 26 grass fires along I-95

A Maine Forest Service helicopter captured images of a series of 24 to 30 grass fires along Interstate 95's northbound lane from Carmel to Sherman that investigators believe was caused by debris falling from a truck on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.
Courtesy of Maine Forest Service
A Maine Forest Service helicopter captured images of a series of 24 to 30 grass fires along Interstate 95's northbound lane from Carmel to Sherman that investigators believe was caused by debris falling from a truck on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.
Posted July 17, 2012, at 7:02 p.m.

A total of 26 grass fires were started accidentally along Interstate 95 between Carmel and Sherman last week by burning debris that fell from a northbound flatbed truck, a Maine Forest Service ranger said Tuesday.

On Monday, Forest Rangers Joe Mints and Kevin Somers and forensic specialist Stephen Wipperman finished mapping the fires, which burned up to 1½ acres each, Mints said.

No criminal charges will result from the July 10 accident.

“We did find excellent evidence in many of those locations that all pointed right back to that truck,” Mints said Tuesday. “Subsequent interviews with the original seller of farm equipment and the driver of the truck all corroborate the story that it was an unfortunate accident.”

A case like this, Mints has said, could have resulted in charges ranging from felony arson, if investigators had found evidence of intentional destruction, to a summons for improper disposal of ignited materials, which carries fines and reimbursement for damage and firefighter costs.

Rangers initially suspected that as many as 30 fires along the highway and in the median might have been started by the truck, which was carrying farming equipment and a hopper from Carmel to Aroostook County. There were 26 fires. No one was injured.

Burning bits of plywood, solder and other debris found along the road came from a bin that had been cut down with a blowtorch to fit under highway overpasses on the back of a flatbed tractor-trailer truck, Mints said. Solder from the job ignited the debris.

The driver and passenger were not charged because they apparently could not see or didn’t know that the debris was burning or had escaped the truck, Mints said.

The hot, dry and windy conditions last week were a big factor in the fires, Mints said.

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