Conditions spark series of grass fires in Maine

Posted April 19, 2009, at 10:14 p.m.

A series of small grass fires in recent days are serving as a warning to the public about dry conditions outdoors, according to public safety officials.

Sparks from a train set off a fire Friday night that burned about 3 acres of grass and woods in an industrial area along Perry Road in Bangor.

Bangor Assistant Fire Chief Rick Cheverie said the fire came as close as 50 feet to a building at 510 Perry Road that houses Bennett Auto Center and FedEx.

The fire was located along the railroad embankment, burning 750 to 1,000 feet along the tracks, and into the woods behind the building.

Cheverie said it’s believed the fire started about 8 p.m. Friday. It was reported by a Hampden ambulance crew who were on their way back to home base and decided to check out the situation when they saw smoke in the sky.

Roughly six to eight grass fires occurred over the weekend in Washington County, but none of them turned out to be significant, dispatchers at the emergency regional communications center said this weekend.

Such fires are typical in the spring when warmer weather melts off the snow cover and dries out the top layer of dead grass left over from last year, they said.

Anyone who obtains a burn permit should be careful to make sure the fire doesn’t spread out of control, the dispatchers said. A few of the small grass fires this weekend are believed to have started out as permitted burns that spread into nearby grass.

Al Turner, a dispatcher with Maine Forest Service, said Sunday that the service is issuing burn permits to be used only between 5 p.m. and sunset. If changing conditions such as increasing winds were to occur, he said, the service could stop issuing burn permits until the risk of fire decreases.

BDN writers Bill Trotter in Ellsworth and Jessica Bloch in Bangor contributed to this report.

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