Rain relieves danger as Maine Forest Service investigates suspicious fires

Posted May 09, 2013, at 3:14 p.m.
Last modified May 09, 2013, at 3:54 p.m.

JONESBORO, Maine — Heavy overnight fog and a solid rain Thursday relieved an extremely high fire danger in Washington County, giving forest rangers a break after two weeks of wildfires, grass fires and out-of-control burns.

District Ranger Courtney Hammond said multiple fires have been fought over the last two weeks in Jonesport, Pembroke, Marion Township, Township 18, Addison and Beddington in Washington County, and in Bucksport in Hancock County. The fires in Marion Township, Township 18 and Bucksport are considered suspicious, Hammond said.

Two helicopters, four forest rangers and the Columbia, Columbia Falls and Harrington fire departments fought a suspected arson fire for eight hours Wednesday in Township 18, which is just north of Columbia Falls. Hammond said the fire burned more than 100 acres and appears to have been set in at least three locations.

“There are no roads, no camps up there,” he said. “It is a very remote area and the exact location of a similar fire seven years ago.”

Hammond said firefighters stayed on the scene until fog began rolling in at sunset.

“Then we let Mother Nature do her thing” by soaking the woods, he said.

Thursday’s rain provided a respite from the constant fires, Hammond said.

It also allowed time for the Maine Forest Service to enlist the help of about 10 inmates from Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport to help maintain and clean the firefighting equipment at the district ranger headquarters in Jonesboro.

Hammond said the forest service annually trains eligible inmates from Downeast Correctional — sometimes as many as 20 — to help the rangers fight wildfires. The most recent group of inmates just completed training on Wednesday, so have not yet participated in firefighting efforts.

No one was insured in Wednesday’s fire and Hammond said no buildings or agricultural land were involved.

“The land is all forested there,” he said.

Hammond said the fire danger rating dropped from a high of 4 on Wednesday to a 3 on Thursday.

“And with this rain, I think we are just being careful with that rating,” Hammond said.

Anyone with information that might assist forest rangers in their investigations of the suspicious fires is urged to call toll-free 800-987-0257.

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