More than 20 wildfires broke out across Maine on Monday, with some threatening homes and others causing actual damage to buildings.
Regional Forest Ranger Jeff Currier, who is based in Old Town, said the Maine Forest Service responded to fires in Sanford, Lewiston, Harmony, Lincolnville, Blue Hill, Old Town, Machiasport, Chesterville, Bowdoinham, Dexter, Sedgwick, Ellsworth, Leeds, Lamoine, Frankfort and Fairfield, among other locations.
Reports of brush fires started coming in Saturday, continued Sunday, and seemed to intensify Monday as strong winds caused fires to spread.
Currier said most of the fires were accidental, including a fire Saturday that began when a farm worker in Monmouth, who was trying to “smoke out a woodchuck in its hole,” started a brush fire that burned nearly 2 acres of grass and brush at an apple orchard.
A wind-whipped grass fire outside a planned indoor marijuana grow operation on Middle Road in Skowhegan ignited a pile of old tires Monday, sending black smoke high into the sky. The fire burned just under 2 acres of grass.
Though the fire danger levels in coastal areas and about 40 miles inland were listed as moderate on the Maine Forest Service’s website Monday, Currier said history has proved that April and May tend to be the months when most wildfires occur.
“We don’t consider what happened today to be abnormal,” said Currier, who urged people to get a burn permit from their town or the state. Once trees and foliage start to green up in June, the number of wildfires should decrease.
As of Monday, the Maine Forest Service had responded so far this year to more than 80 wildfires, which had burned close to 70 acres, Currier said.
One of the most challenging wildfires occurred in Sanford around 2:30 p.m., when a homeowner on Dorsey Street discarded a cigarette into a backyard fire pit.
The cigarette ignited dry materials in the fire pit and the wind blew them onto a shed, which caught fire and threatened the man’s house, according to Sanford Assistant Fire Chief Steve Cutter. That fire damaged the shed and burned about 1 acre, but firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to the home.
Around the same time, another brush fire broke out on Payeur Circle, off Country Club Road in Sanford. Several homes were threatened, but Sanford firefighters fought the fire, which burned about 2 acres, Cutter said. The cause remains under investigation.
“It’s true that winter just ended, but people have got to realize that there is a lot of dried-out materials on the ground,” Cutter said. “It’s not uncommon to have a lot of brush fires at this time of year. People should be extra cautious until things start to green up.”
Forest rangers used Twitter to publicize the rash of wildfires that swept through the state Monday and last weekend.
They published photographs of a wildfire in Machiasport that burned between 6 and 8 acres of grassland and threatened a home on Rim Road. Currier said the fire started Monday after a debris burn got out of control.
Another legally permitted burn on River Road in Bowdoinham got out of control Monday and rangers said a “rather large pile of lobster buoys” in Sedgwick caught fire, a blaze that burned a half acre and threatened structures. The Sedgwick fire was caused by debris burning.
According to the Maine Forest Service’s wildfire danger report website, all of southern Maine, north to Augusta and Bangor and east to Washington County’s border with Canada, are in moderate fire danger. The rest of the state from Rangeley in western Maine and north of Bangor is classified as being in a low fire danger region.