District attorney reviewing Ellsworth wildlife sanctuary arson case

The Stanwood Homestead at Birdsacre, a wildlife sanctuary in Ellsworth, and its contents were damaged March 2, 2014 in a fire that officials believe was intentionally set.
Bill Trotter | BDN
The Stanwood Homestead at Birdsacre, a wildlife sanctuary in Ellsworth, and its contents were damaged March 2, 2014 in a fire that officials believe was intentionally set.
Posted July 30, 2014, at 5:38 p.m.
Firefighters respond to a blaze at Birdsacre on High Street in Ellsworth March 2, 2014.
Bill Trotter | BDN
Firefighters respond to a blaze at Birdsacre on High Street in Ellsworth March 2, 2014.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The results of an investigation into a fire suspected of being deliberately set at a local wildlife sanctuary have been forwarded to the Hancock County district attorney’s office, officials said Wednesday.

Sgt. Tim York of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Wednesday that the case file on the March 2 fire at Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Birdsacre, has been sent to District Attorney Carletta “Dee” Bassano.

He directed all other questions about the matter to the prosecutor.

In March, York indicated that the blaze that caused significant damage to a former homestead on the property “appears to be an intentional human element fire.”

Bassano said Wednesday that she has received the file and is reviewing it to see what, if any, criminal charges might be appropriate. She said she has not made any decisions about filing charges in the matter and that she is not sure when any such decision might be made.

She declined to comment on specifics of the case.

“We are evaluating it,” Bassano said.

The fire caused significant damage to the former home of Cordelia J. Stanwood, after whom the sanctuary is named. The house, which is located a few feet from Route 3, suffered fire damage to the rear of the building and smoke and heat damage in the front, officials have said.

The house, originally built in the mid-1800s, was restored in the 1950s and has been maintained as a seasonal museum since 1960, according to the sanctuary website.

It was not insured, due to the presence of old heating stoves in the building, and contained many of Stanwood’s old belongings, including books and furniture, much of which was destroyed.

Prior to the fire, Stanwood’s written field notes had been digitized and saved elsewhere while the glass plate negatives of her photos had been placed in storage off-site, a sanctuary official has said.

Attempts Wednesday to contact Grayson Richmond, president of Birdsacre, were unsuccessful.

Officials with Birdsacre have posted limited information about the incident on the sanctuary’s website. In an online statement, they assert that the fire was “an intentionally perpetrated act of arson committed by a disturbed vandal who discovered Birdsacre randomly.”

The fire was set by a man with no connections to or familiarity with the sanctuary, they added.

“We were just in his path that night,” they said.

There are a handful of other buildings on the 200-acre property, including a nature center with exhibits and several bird enclosures. None of the sanctuary’s birds or other buildings were harmed in the fire.

The sanctuary continues to function and has been open to the public this summer, despite the damage to the old homestead.

Sanctuary officials have been trying to raise money to help repair the damage.

According to information posted on the Birdsacre website and on its Facebook page, the sanctuary’s annual “Cordie Day” festivities are being held this weekend, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 2. A drawing for a fundraiser raffle will be held at 3 p.m. at the end of the event.

 

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