Dry conditions: Fire torches woodlands, truck, debris at South Bridgton property

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

A South Bridgton resident was summonsed by the Maine Forest Service for failure to extinguish a fire after a pile of scrap material ignited Tuesday and spread to woods and a nearby tire pile.

Jesse Allen, of 183 South Bridgton Road, may also be facing fines for having an unlicensed junkyard, said Bridgton Fire Chief Glen Garland. The fire destroyed a truck and camper on his property, but Allen’s home and garage was spared.

Allen told Maine Forest Service Ranger Matt Bennett he had been burning scrap wood on his property on Friday but had not been doing any burning on Tuesday when the fire erupted. Garland said Allen did not have a fire permit.

The fire occurred on what’s called a Red Flag Day, when no outdoor burning whatsoever is allowed. The Maine Forest Service has declared fire danger in the state as very high, which means fires can start easily, spread rapidly and quickly increase in size. It’s one step below the most serious condition of extreme.

A large black plume of smoke filled the air above Allen’s mobile home at 183 Bridgton Road at just before 10 a.m. South Bridgton Fire Captain Paul Field, who works at Everlast Roofing just up the road, was first on the scene after Allen called 911. Field said it was possible that the burning Allen had been doing late last week had not been fully extinguished.

“That’s why it’s important to get a permit, and make sure every single ember is extinguished” by using extra large amounts of water, Field said.

The fire spread from the tire pile to around 50 feet into the woods separating Allen’s property from a neighbor. Field estimated that between 50 and 100 tires were in the pile that burned.

A north-facing banking helped prevent the fire from spreading further into the wooded area, and firefighters also stationed a truck in the next driveway above. Assisting Bridgton were firefighters from Standish, Denmark, Sebago, Harrison and Naples, Field said.

“We were preparing for the worst,” he said, although as it turned out the fire was knocked down in short order.

Garland said that despite the large snowfall last winter, the ground is extremely dry. Gusting winds of late have exacerbated the fire danger.

“Until it gets green and the trees leaf out, there’s no way anyone should be doing any burning. Absolutely not,” Garland said. He said conditions should begin to ease up by the weekend, and it’s possible burn permits will be allowed by early next week.

“I realize everyone is anxious to get their yards cleaned up after the winter, but it’s just way too dry right now,” he said.

If found guilty of failure to extinguish a fire, Allen could face a fine and be required to pay for the cost of the fire suppression efforts.

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