ELLSWORTH, Maine — Two 9-year-olds reported missing from a Branch Pond Road home early Thursday evening were found a couple of hours later in a joint search conducted by officers with local police and fire departments, the Maine Warden Service and Maine State Police.

The 9-year-old brother and sister were initially out sledding but came back to their house and started playing in the snow in the yard, according to Ellsworth Police Sgt. Glenn Moshier.

“We initially got a call from Maine State Police around 4:45 p.m. from a trooper who lives nearby and talked to their mother, who was frantic,” Moshier said.

Ellsworth police and fire, Maine State Police, Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, and Maine Warden Service officers all responded to help with the search.

“We found them in the woods over a mile from their home,” Moshier said. “Their mother pointed out a trail in an area she hadn’t gone. I followed it and quickly saw some tracks. We eventually found them well into the woods heading away from their house.”

Ellsworth Fire Chief Richard Tupper said fire department personnel assisted with the search with thermal imaging equipment.

“We sent eight people in an engine and a rescue unit with thermal imaging cameras to assist police K-9 units,” Tupper said.

Moshier confirmed that Ellsworth’s K-9 unit search dog was also used to track footprints in the snow near the home, which is near Branch Lake.

“The tracks came to a Y, and one group went right and another went left and the group with our K-9 dog, Chase, practically ran right into the kids,” said Ellsworth police Lt. Harold Page.

Moshier said finding a clean set of the children’s tracks was the key.

”We were essentially able to track them down by their footprints and catch up to them,” said Moshier. “We found them around 7 p.m.”

Moshier credited Hancock County Regional Communication Center personnel for helping rescuers find the quickest way out of the woods after the found the children, who were uninjured and returned home.

BDN reporter Bill Trotter contributed to this story. Check back later for updates.