The Penobscot Times

Municipalities temporarily suspend issuing fire permits amid wildfire concerns

OLD TOWN, Maine — Orono and Old Town have put a temporary halt on issuing online burning permits while the Maine Forest Service attempts to tame wildfires across the state. 

Maine is seeing an “abnormally high number” of wildfires this year, the Orono Fire Department said. As of June 24, Maine Forest Service had recorded approximately 712 fires — the second-highest total for an entire year in the last decade.

There has also been a 170 percent increase in wildfires caused by campfires compared to last year, according to MFS. 

[Campfire safety key as wildfire numbers approach 10-year high]

“Dry weather and disruptions caused by the pandemic are the root causes of this abnormally high number of fires,” the town of Orono said on its website June 23. 

The Orono Fire Department has seen an increase in fires recently as more people stuck at home because of the pandemic start campfires or other open burns in their backyards, Capt. Bryan Hardison said. 

Hardison also noted that more people are starting open fires without permits. 

Staffing shortages and occurrences of fires around the state — along with the increased risk of wildfires specifically– have also contributed to the MFS’ decision to temporarily suspend online brush burning permits. 

The action is expected to remain in effect until the state sees an “adequate level of rainfall,” the organization said. 

On Monday, an Island Falls man was issued a summons for starting a wildfire that engulfed 236 acres of land in flames last month.

People can check the state’s daily wildfire danger report online.

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