Burn-permit bans prelude ‘green-up’

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — An 80-plus-degree Patriots’ Day may have pleased many.

However, the low-precipitation trend presents a concern to area fire departments.

While the dry conditions proved to be pleasant for the holiday’s barbecues, yard work and boating excursions, they were not the best circumstances for controlling outdoor fires.

In response to the lack of rain, the Town of Casco has banned the issuing of all outdoor burn permits until green-up unless a substantial rainfall occurs first, according to Casco Fire Chief Jason Moen.

With flammable debris on the forest floor and a continued dry spell, the Casco Fire Department has called a halt to all outdoor burns, Moen said.

“We have been proactive with the fire danger, and we have banned daytime burning for now, depending on what the weather does,” he said. “But, with the heavy fuel load going on in the woods right now, we are going to continue our ban until the green-up happens.”

The town will allow warming fires, but any fire bigger than that or burned for another purpose is not being permitted, he said.

“We realize that it is an inconvenience” for many residents who would like to rid themselves of this past autumn’s leaves and organic debris, he said. He added people can get some yard work closure by taking that natural debris to the Naples-Casco Transfer Station. The facility accepts that type of bulky waste, he said.

Moen stressed that green-up, by definition, is when tree leaves are fully expanded and not the point in time when buds are visible.

The good news from the National Weather Service (NWS) is that this year’s green-up may happen three weeks earlier than usual.

The green-up “could happen early. Usually, our worse fire weather season is late April through May. And, we are running three weeks ahead of schedule for that. So, we think we might be three weeks ahead of schedule” for green-up, according to NWS Meteorologist Michael Cempa.

Other municipalities in the Lake Region have dried up the issuing of burn permits, too.

For the Town of Bridgton, burn permits are issued according to the U.S. Forest Service’s ratings of potential fire danger.

“Today is a Class Four. There are no burn permits being issued today,” Bridgton Public Safety Administrative Assistant Terri Stone said on Tuesday.

No residents received burn permits for Patriots’ Day either, Stone said.

Bridgton Fire Chief Glen Garland said the fire department’s policy is to abide by the day-by-day forestry service classification.

“We’ve been relatively quiet. The only calls have been about people burning when they aren’t supposed to,” Garland said.

The Bridgton fire crew was on stand-by on Saturday as six other towns responded to a wildfire in Casco.

According to Chief Moen, Edwards Road was the proximity of a two-acre woods fire. Firefighters spent three hours before the fire was under control with wind gusts a factor in slowing down that job, he said.

Moen said the fire-danger period usually runs through the end of May.

“But, hopefully green-up will happen sooner than that. Hopefully, it will rain,” Moen said.

Chief Garland said it is the acceptable norm that when spring arrives, so do the wildfire worries.

From the time the snow melts and is absorbed into the ground until the time the leaves unfurl with the green of summer, the fire danger exists, he said.

“The weatherman said no rain until this weekend. Every day that it’s windy and dry, the fire danger will increase,” Garland said.

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