WOODSTOCK, Maine — As many as 60 firefighters from a dozen towns and three Maine Fire Service helicopters battled a 10-acre fire on a mountainside off Perkins Valley Road on Wednesday afternoon for about four hours.
Several firefighters were treated at the scene for heat-related issues after walking about half a mile up the mountainside, just south of Spruce Mountain, in near 70 degree heat. The fire spread southward during the afternoon, according to Maine Fire Service Ranger Brad Bucknell.
The fire was contained at about 4:30 p.m. Firefighters were not expected to stay at the scene all night but would be back to check it Thursday morning, Bucknell said.
The fire danger in the area was high Wednesday, with dry conditions and a steady breeze.
“It’s hot and hard,” Woodstock fire Chief Geff Inman said of the firefighting efforts. He was stationed at the command post on Perkins Valley Road where rotating firefighters on ATVs went up the mountainside about 800 feet into the dense woods all afternoon.
Bucknell said more than 30 firefighters were in the woods around 1 p.m. and double that amount were fighting the fire about a half-a-mile up the mountain by 4 p.m.
Firefighters brought portable tanks to nearby brooks, including Andrews Brook, to pump water. Firetrucks got about a quarter of a mile up the mountain, he said.
The three Maine Fire Service helicopters dumped water pumped from a farm pond on nearby Cushman Road.
Staging for the operation, which included firefighters from Woodstock, Greenwood, West Paris, Paris, Norway, Oxford, Mexico, Rumford, Dixfield, Peru, Andover and other towns, was at the Woodstock Seventh-day Adventist Church on the lower part of Perkins Valley Road.
Paris fire Chief Brad Frost was at the command post checking in each firefighter as they came out of the woods to ensure they were safe.
Neighbors in the area said they noticed the smoke on the mountain just before noon.
Desiree Johnson of 285 Perkins Valley Road, just down the road from the command post, and another neighbor said they had been watching the fire drift southward across the mountain but were not too concerned about their safety. A brook, marshland and a large field lay between the mountain and the houses.
Bucknell said they could stop the fire at the field should it drift downward.
Oxford Hills School District buses with some students went part way up the road before they were turned around for safety. Johnson said she was told to come pick up her child at school.
Both women said the land their houses are on and the mountain where the fire was are owned by Leon Poland, who also lives on Perkins Valley Road.
Poland was not at the scene of the fire.
Neighbors and firefighters said logging has occurred on the mountain. Firefighters were using an old logging road to access the woods which they described as difficult to access because of trees that were laid on the path to allow skidders to drive over.
Bucknell said investigators would go into the woods and look for the cause Thursday morning.
“It had to be a human element,” he said. The investigators would first seek out the general area where the fire was concentrated and determine where it started.
“We look at certain indicators,” Bucknell said. Among the items they will be looking at are charred trees to see which direction the fire bent the branches.
“We’ll be back in tomorrow,” he said about 5 p.m. as mop up of the area continued.