September 19, 2019

Lightning major cause of rash of forest fires

AUGUSTA — Maine Forest Service rangers of the Department of Conservation tended to nine small forest fires Friday, most apparently caused by lightning.

Early Friday morning, forest rangers were called to the scene of a cottage fire on Ambajejus Lake, near Millinocket. The cottage was a complete loss and the fire was contained before it spread to neighboring camps and woods. That fire is being investigated jointly by the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Forest Service.

Fire activity picked up around 11 a.m., as new fire starts were reported near Burlington, Rockwood, Lincoln and Millinocket. Four additional fires were reported in northern Maine, the largest being approximately a half-acre in size. The locations of those fires were Ross Mountain, Churchill Lake, and two near Benedicta.

“Given the very dry conditions which currently exist, we fully expect more lightning strikes to show up later today and for several more days to come,” stated Forest Ranger Spokesman Jim Downie. “When ground conditions get this dry it isn’t uncommon for firefighters to find ground fire for days, and even weeks. All the fires are burning very deep into the ground, causing for stubborn mop-up.”

The Forest Service reports that virtually all of Maine reached high fire danger Friday. Brisk winds contributed to the increased danger in many regions.

The Department of Conservation strongly recommends all people who will be recreating this weekend in Maine’s forests to first check with any Maine Forest Service Headquarters. Campers are strongly urged to make absolutely sure their fire is dead out before leaving their site.

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