Lightning strike causes another wildfire in the North Maine Woods

7 August 2012

CHAMBERLAIN LAKE - In another in a string of forest fires occurring in the north western Maine woods during this spell of dry and windy weather, Maine Forest Service Rangers and fire fighters have been battling a blaze at the head of Umbazookus Lake, just west of Chamberlain Lake.

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The fire, which began at the edge of a clear-cut and mature growth, has not affected residences. The MFS estimates the fire that a lightning strike likely caused to have burned between six and eight acres so far, said Forest Ranger Amanda Barker.

She said the Forest Rangers had some concerns Sunday night with the wind shift that occurred in conjunction with the weather front that moved in, but the rain, a third of an inch, that fell helped to prevent the anticipated spread of the burn.

Rangers are still watching the fire closely.

"The wind is greater than expected," Barker said. "The benefit from last night's rain is going to be gone pretty quickly."

She added, "We are in the process of putting in a bulldozed line."

This will also help to contain the fire's spread. Approximately 15 people are currently working on the fire, including Maine Forest Ranger Todd Weeks, who is in charge of the operation at the site. MFS will be sending in approximately 12 more people tomorrow, reported Barker.

In addition to the bulldozer, MFS has two pump trucks at the scene, and a helicopter pilot has been flying reconnaissance. Over a mile of hose has been laid to help contain the fire.

Barker said the strike that caused the fire was likely in a band of lightning that went through that area on Saturday, which MFS satellite-based lightning detection equipment picked up. Rangers have found the sensitive high-tech equipment to be accurate to about 100 yards, she said.

"We are able to tell if [the lightning] is positively or negatively charged," she said.

Barker said that positive strikes are "a lot more powerful", so it is more likely that a fire will start from a positive strike. However, the last two fires in that fire district recently have been determined to have been caused by negative strikes, so it is not a hard-and-fast rule.

Their area has seen thousands of lightning strikes recently, of which only two have developed into full-flown fires.

"It's still a needle in a haystack," she said.

Because of this, the Civil Air Patrol continues to fly for MFS, with pilots looking for smoke. High-tech equipment helps to make those flights more efficient and effective.

"We are often able to tell [the pilots] to concentrate in an area," Barker said.

On this fire, patrol flights will continue until the rain comes, she said. The dry and windy weather remains a concern.





...I suppose that's why JD Irving shut down all wood harvesting operations for a couple of weeks. People are out of work but look at the bright side.