The Star-Herald

Fire chiefs, forest wardens urged to use extreme caution in issuing open burn permits

CARIBOU, Maine — The Maine Forest Service is urging Maine fire chiefs and forest fire wardens to use extreme caution or to suspend the issuance of written open burning brush permits until the state sees an adequate level of precipitation, according to a June 23 press release.

The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Maine Forest Service is also temporarily halting any online open burning permits for outdoor brush and wood burning during this time.

Prior to the issuance of the release, some Mainers were under the impression that there was an outright ban on all outdoor burning, but a Forest Service official said on June 25 that the organization had not issued a complete ban, and that the June 23 release was issued to clarify the matter.

Campfire permits are still available, and the MFS reminded residents to obtain landowner permission on remote campsites in unorganized towns and to seek campfire permits from the service. 

MFS also said that campfires on someone’s own property for cooking and warming are okay, unless prohibited by a local ordinance. 

“While we are temporarily suspending Maine’s online burning permit systems, we are going to rely on the experience of our forest rangers and our dedicated partners in the municipal fire service to ensure that Maine is protected from this current wildfire threat,” MFS Director Patty Cormier said in the release.

Fort Kent Fire Chief Ed Endee said the town is not issuing any additional restrictions for burning, and that they are continuing to follow Maine Forest Service guidelines.

“We did receive some rain here last night,” Endee said on June 25, “so we’re going to take another look at it today. I will be following Maine Forest Service guidelines which means we’re not issuing permits for brush or debris piles, but we are allowing fire rings.”

The Presque Isle Fire Department said they are not adding any further restrictions, citing that the Maine Forest Service listed a low fire risk on June 25, and that the city will allow for burning as usual.

Houlton firefighter Brent Estabrook said there are no additional restrictions as long as residents have a burn permit issued by the town.

“We have low fire danger today, so it’s not a problem,” said Estabrook.

Caribou Fire Capt. Scott Jackson said the department will allow a fire pit or grill for cooking, but will not allow any other outdoor burning

For those who do burn for cooking on their property, Jackson recommended having a garden hose or bucket of water handy just in case.

“We’re holding off on issuing permits until we get some much needed rain,” said Jackson.

Just last week, Caribou firefighters were assisted by Limestone, Fort Fairfield and Presque Isle in fighting a forest fire that started when temperatures were above 90 degrees. Though firefighters were able to extinguish the fire, the current weather posed significant challenges as they battled the flames for more than three hours. 

As of late June, Maine Forest Rangers have responded to 712 fires across 871 acres, according to the MFS release, which is the second-highest fire count in 10 years. 

The Maine Forest Service advises checking for local fire conditions prior to starting a campfire, to keep fires small and to keep them at least 50 feet away from any structures on level ground. 

They advised against using accelerants to start fires, and to have plenty of water and tools on hand to extinguish the fire. Once the fire is out, they recommend checking several times to ensure that it is out, and to supervise any children or pets near the fire.

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