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Stetson man charged after setting field on fire, trying to reignite it while firefighters battled flames

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Firefighters from several different area departments, including Levant and Stetson, put out a grass fire in a field belonging to James Pimental on the Wolfsboro Road in Stetson on Thursday, March 22, 2012. Pimental kept relighting the fire after firefighters put it out. He was summoned for burning without a permit.
By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

STETSON, Maine — A Wolfboro Road man is facing charges after setting fire to his farm field Thursday without a burn permit and then trying to reignite it while firefighters were trying to put it out.

Forest Ranger Aaron Bailey said Thursday he issued Jim Pimental summonses not only for burning without a permit but also attempting to hinder a forest ranger.

“He was very obstinate,” Bailey said. “He said he wanted to burn the rest of the field and he was bound and determined to do it.”

Pimental is scheduled to make an initial appearance on May 16 in Newport District Court.

The fire was reported shortly before noon by a passer-by. Fire crews from Stetson and several outlying towns were called upon to extinguish it.

Bailey said the fire burned 3 acres of open field and was beginning to approach Pimental’s barn — which contained hay — and a nearby wooded area. He also said that no one was around to help Pimental had the fire gone out of control.

The hindering statute is not used often, forest service Lt. Jeff Currier said Thursday, estimating that people are charged with that crime perhaps two or three times a year. He said that the charge is the forest service’s equivalent to an obstruction of government administration charge police officers use.

“Most of the people we deal with are pretty good but there are a few bad apples out there,” Currier said, adding that sometimes rangers find themselves dealing with people who are uncooperative, intoxicated or unstable.

Dwayne Leighton, a Stetson fire warden, said it was unlikely that Pimental would have been issued a burn permit in the first place Thursday morning because of dry and windy weather conditions.

“The fire danger rating today is high,” he said, adding that it was classified as a 3 on the forest service’s scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing low potential for a wildfire and 5 signaling extreme danger.

Permits can be issued on Class 3 days, but safety precautions need to be taken.

Those include burning after 5 p.m., when the temperatures are lower, the relative humidity is higher and winds have died down, Bailey said.

Bailey said he would recommend that several people with filled water tanks and hand tools be on hand to help maintain control over the fire and make sure it is properly extinguished.

No permits are issued on Class 4 and 5 days.

A rating of high danger means that all fine, dead fuels ignite readily and fires start easily from most causes, according to the forest service. Unattended brush and campfires are likely to escape, according to the fire service.

Fires spread rapidly and short-distance spotting is common. High-intensity burning may develop on slopes, in concentrations of fine fuel. Fires may become serious and their control difficult, unless they are hit hard and fast while small.

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