ROQUE BLUFFS — A backyard burn barrel that tipped over is believed to have started the Thursday afternoon fire that consumed more than 20 acres in Roque Bluffs, according to Ranger Don Hicks of the Maine Forest Service.
More than 50 firefighters from Machias and outlying towns battled the blaze as it rapidly moved behind homes on the Roque Bluffs Road. Several homeowners said that at the height of the fire, they had been told they might have to evacuate.
“Once the flames got close, they told us we couldn’t go back into the house,” said Joan Anthony.
Anthony fought back tears as friends and relatives helped her wet down the back of her one-story house and a firefighter kept flames at bay. Anthony was not at home when the fire initially broke out and neighbors went to the home to save her cat and dog, her pictures, some clothes, and other mementos.
“My husband died two years ago and I just had to have some of those things,” Anthony said.
Farther up the road, Alfred Morse stood outside his house and watched the smoke rising just beyond the trees on the other side of the pavement. Morse gestured to the yellow, matted grass in front of the trees and said it was called “blue joint.”
By 3:30, a helicopter with a Bambi bucket — a large canvas pouch that opens from the bottom — began to drop water onto the flames. Hicks said the forest service rented the helicopter and has two on loan from Nova Scotia. The helicopter would keep the fire from crossing the brook and endangering more homes, he said. Hicks said that firefighters probably would be on the scene into the night and mop up on Friday, but that he wasn’t worried.