Calais and Red Beach FD Called to Contain Milltown Grassfire

Photo Calais Police officers and residents contain a fire on Boardman Street. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette).

By Jarod Farn-Guillette

Nearly all of Milltown in Calais was briefly under a hazy plume of smoke and filled with a familial scent – burning grass and wood. A common early spring ritual quickly escalated into an emergency that required assistance from even the Red Beach Fire Department, when high winds picked up a controlled burn in a field on Boardman Street and pushed the blaze into a wooded area behind several houses perched above on King Street. Making matters worse, Calais Fire was at the time assisting crews in St. Stephen at a forest fire in Upper Mills, New Brunswick. According to Officer Dewitt of the Calais Police Department, what started out as a controlled burn for spring maintenance of grass field on Boardman Street, by around 5:00 pm in the late afternoon, nearly all of Milltown from Boardman Street to Harrison looked less like rural Maine and something out of a war-scene in a movie, or today's Beijing. The thick blanket of smoke spreading in the gusts of wind caught the attention of local residents, surprised by the quick sound of sirens immediately following the fire. 

According to by-standers on bicycles, they saw the smoke and headed towards the scene, only to witness Calais' bravest crossing quickly back into the country over the Milltown Bridge. With crews tapping into a hydrant to quell the fire that had by now quickly spread into the wooded area behind residential properties on King Street, a small crowd of curious onlookers arrived on site, undeterred by the worsening air-quality. The haze and country-quaint smell, belying the seriousness of the situation, didn't last long and the responding departments had the blaze quickly back under control, aided slightly by the lessening winds. 

What started out as an intense and worrying event, due to the quick response of the people responsible for the field clearing and local fire-fighters, was subdued in textbook style. With crews remaining on the scene, the controlled fire went on, albeit with a few more hands and hoses available to ensure if wind speeds ticked up a notch, Milltown's air remained clear. For those burning off the remaining fall and winter debris and leaves, or looking to prep grounds for gardening, remember to contact the local fire department for a burn permit, have all required safety and fire suppressing materials readily nearby, and importantly monitor weather conditions constantly for changes that may affect the situation. With summer finally approaching and a late start to spring, people may be hurried to get the chores over with, but safety should never be forgotten. This fire was an example of how even with all the proper preparations and precautions, any situation can be overcome by events. Luckily,  fire crews were able to respond in time and all persons acted responsibly in dealing with the fire. The smell, sight and warmth of a field burning is a welcome sign of the changes associated with seasonal life in Downeast, Maine. This homeyness is best enjoyed without the stress and worry of insurance claims. Keep it safe. 

Red Beach Fire Department respond to a grass-brush fire on Saturday. (Photo by Jarod Farn-Guillette).