Campfire ignites tree on island in Norway lake

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NORWAY — Sparks from a campfire lit by fishermen ignited a dead tree on Bass Island at the northern end of Pennesseewassee Lake on Monday afternoon.

“It was a one-tree forest fire,” Norway fire Chief Dennis Yates said after returning around 2:30 p.m.

No one was injured and damage was confined to the tree, he said.

According to Yates, two fishermen lit a campfire shortly after noon and were preparing to cook lunch when a flag on an ice fishing trap went off nearby, indicating there was a fish on the line. The men turned to check out their lines only several yards away, turned around and saw a 30- to 40-foot high tree going up in flames.

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“Once the sparks got in there, it went up like a chimney,” said Yates, who made the decision to let the tree burn itself out.

Because of the nature of the fire and the fact that the flames were not spreading, Yates said he made a decision to not have firefighters cross the ice to try to douse it or cut it down.

“It was hollow all the way up,” said Yates, who believes the tree may have been hit by lightning. It’s top was gone.

Firefighters placed equipment at the boat landing and off Mallard Way to access the fire if necessary, but Yates said the flames were under control.

“We’re keeping an eye on it. There’s no danger but I didn’t want anyone to try to cut it down. There are big limbs (hanging). It’s not worth risking anyone’s life,” he said.

The island, which has a camp on it, is about a quarter of an acre and the largest of three on the lake. It is unclear who owns the camp, which is on the other end from the burning tree.

Yates said he would return to the island later in the day to recheck the area.

 ldixon@sunjournal.com

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