HARPSWELL — Four acres of heavily forested land burned on Sheep Island in the New Meadows River this weekend, with flames coming within a few feet of some homes.
Nine camps and the picturesque island could have been lost if not for an army of firefighters, fishermen, recreational boaters, Maine Forest Service rangers, and U.S. Coast Guard members who fought the blaze, Cundy’s Harbor Fire Chief Benjamin Wallace said in a June 28 statement.
Rangers are investigating the cause as suspicious in origin.
The fire was reported at 2:30 p.m. June 24 when an off-duty firefighter in a passing boat noticed smoke rising from the island. Firefighters responded, but the flames, fueled by downed vegetation from the 2007 Patriot’s Day storm, had already reached the treetops when they arrived.
Firefighters from Orr’s and Bailey Island, Harpswell Neck, West Bath, Brunswick, Topsham, Phippsburg and Freeport were called in, Wallace said. Several fishermen and local boaters transported about 50 firefighters, two forest rangers, fire pumps, and thousands of feet of hose to the island.
Within 90 minutes firefighters had established a firebreak between the nine homes and the burning woods. Forest Service helicopters aided from above, dumping 250 gallons of water on the fire at a time. By nightfall, the flames had been reduced to hot spots.
A small crew of firefighters kept watch overnight, and about 20 returned the next day to establish a more permanent firebreak using chain saws, and to pour water on remaining hot spots.
“For all those that helped in whatever fashion, we give our sincere thanks. This proves that the community and the firefighters that serve them are as strong as ever,” Wallace said Tuesday.
An aerial view of the extinguished Sheep Island fire June 25. Flames reached within a few feet of homes in some places.