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Forest service makes more headway in stamping out Big Spencer Mountain wildfire

Maine Forest Rangers | BDN
Maine Forest Rangers | BDN
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 Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

TOWNSHIP 2 RANGE 13, Maine — A wildfire that has been burning since Saturday atop Big Spencer Mountain has been contained to less than two acres and likely will be completely out in the next day or two.

“We’ve made really great progress today,” Forest Ranger Jon Blackstone of the Maine Forest Service’s Moosehead Lake District said Tuesday evening.

“We’ve got it contained and knocked down,” he said. Fire crews also successfully protected two nearby radio repeater towers 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.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but Maine Forest Service Lt. Jeff Currier said over the weekend that it has been “highly problematic” due to its remote location, dry conditions, lack of nearby water, and winds.

On Monday, a dozen area firefighters with “hot shot” wildfire training, two Maine forest rangers and two forest service helicopters had made some major advances in controlling the fire, despite steep terrain, occasional high winds and a thick, tangled covering of black spruce.

Blackstone said Tuesday’s wildfire attack team consisted of 10 area firefighters, two state forest rangers and a state helicopter. Plans for Wednesday are to return with a smaller crew to dig out remaining smouldering spots and complete the “mop up” process Thursday.

The fire was reported Saturday and possibly started at or near the construction site of a new radio tower, Currier said earlier this week.

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

Despite warm temperatures this week, firefighters and rangers have staved off heat exhaustion by pacing themselves, keeping hydrated and keeping an eye out for each other, Blackstone said.

As of Tuesday evening, no injuries had been reported.

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