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Firefighters making ‘excellent progress’ battling Big Spencer Mountain wildfire

Courtesy of Maine Forest Rangers
Courtesy of Maine Forest Rangers
Maine Forest Rangers and other emergency workers battle a wildfire covering about two acres on top of Big Spencer Mountain in Piscataquis County on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

TOWNSHIP 2 RANGE 13, Maine — A wildfire that firefighters have been battling since Saturday atop Big Spencer Mountain almost doubled in size Monday, but officials hope to have it under control soon.

As of late Monday afternoon, a dozen firefighters and two Maine forest rangers had “made excellent progress” and successfully protected two radio repeater towers near the two acres of fire-damaged ground, Maine Forest Service Lt. Jeff Currier said.

“The goal here is to have some pumpable water on scene because the closest natural water source is three miles away and 2,500 feet below,” Currier said Monday. “We can pump that distance and up that elevation, but it is a major undertaking. This is more efficient.”

Maine Forest Service rangers flying two helicopters based in Old Town shuttled water all day Monday to a folding dump tank they placed atop the mountain for the dozen firefighters to use. Currier believed that the water came from Moosehead Lake but said he wasn’t sure.

The helicopters flew from the rangers’ Greenville station, which is about 22 miles north of the mountain. Firefighters normally would have fought the fire past dark, but quit at dusk due to the hazardous conditions atop the mountain, Currier said.

“If somebody took a spill there it would be catastrophic,” Currier said. “It is so steep that if somebody fell down there they would get seriously hurt.”

Firefighters planned to resume fighting the fire at dawn Tuesday. The fire was reported Saturday and possibly started at or near the construction site of a new radio tower, Currier said.

Intense heat, dry conditions and wind gusts of up to 30 mph hampered firefighting efforts on Sunday. The winds lessened to only a dozen or so miles an hour on Monday, helping firefighters trench out and remove flammable brush and trees from around the two threatened radio towers, Currier said.

The radio repeaters are used by a private business and several state and local agencies, including the Maine Forest Service, Maine Department of Conservation and the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department. Their loss would have left gaps in those agencies’ radio coverage, Currier said.

“That is part of the reason this is the highest priority fire in the state for us right now,” Currier said.

No injuries have been reported. If all goes well, firefighters expect to have the fire under control by late Tuesday afternoon, Currier said.

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