Ranger says juveniles’ fireworks may have sparked Otisfield brush fire

By Tony Reaves, Sun Journal
Posted April 21, 2013, at 9:46 p.m.

OTISFIELD, Maine — A fire that burned across 3 acres of brush Wednesday happened after juveniles lighted fireworks in the woods, according to a ranger investigating the incident.

Ranger Matt Bennett of the Maine Forest Service said Saturday that fireworks were set off in the area before the fire started, and that exploded fireworks were recovered from the scene. He said a group of juveniles reported seeing three other kids running from the scene of the fire. Bennett said he hadn’t yet spoken to the group of three.

It’s not known yet whether the fire was started intentionally was a result of fireworks. “I would bet the juveniles had something to do with it,” Bennett said, “Whether it was the flick of a Bic or whether it was the fireworks we recovered.”

Bennett said he plans to re-interview some of the witnesses as well as the juveniles said to have run from the scene.

He said the fire spread quickly through the ground cover of dead leaves and grass, but the ground below was still wet. No structures were threatened by the fire, Bennett said.

When Bennett got the call for the fire, he said a helicopter was initially ordered to help extinguish the blaze from above. The incident commander called off the helicopters when it was clear the fire was under control, he said. When he arrived at about 5:30 p.m., about an hour after receiving the call, the fire was out and crews were tending hot spots.

Crews from Otisfield, Oxford, Norway, Paris, Casco, Sebago, Bridgton, Mechanic Falls, West Paris, Harrison and Poland responded to the blaze.

The fire was one of two in the region last week, when children were on school vacation. Bennett said a fire in the woods in Norway on Thursday, which spread from a campfire, was “more innocent.” He said recklessness seemed to have contributed to the Otisfield fire.

“During school vacation week, usually we see an increase in fire activity with children,” Bennett said. He said one thing he had to determine in Otisfield was whether the juveniles tried to extinguish the fire themselves rather than immediately calling the fire department.

“That is usually a high-risk situation, when the kids, instead of calling 911, try to put the fire out,” he said. “They’re better off to just get out of there, call for help and admit what happened.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/21/news/lewiston-auburn/ranger-says-juveniles-fireworks-may-have-sparked-otisfield-forest-fire/ printed on December 27, 2014