MADRID TOWNSHIP – A fire that blackened 16 acres of fields, woods and a barn Tuesday afternoon is believed to have started by a spark from an all-terrain vehicle.
Two summer camps on property off East Madrid Road were also threatened, fire officials said Wednesday.
Forest Ranger Mark Rousseau is investigating the fire and patrolling the area, Kent Nelson, a fire prevention specialist with the Maine Forest Service, said Wednesday.
Rousseau is 95 percent sure the fire was started by an ATV with a defective spark arrester in its exhaust system.
“The way conditions are right now, one ember would start a grass fire,” Nelson said. “What we had (Tuesday) were strong winds, warm temperatures in the afternoon and low relative humidity.”
The fire site was located about 9 miles northeast of Phillips off Route 142, Phillips Fire Chief Glendon Bachelder said Wednesday.
The fire was reported about 2:30 p.m. in a field along a brook, he said. It traveled to the edge of the woods.
More than 16 firefighters from Phillips and Strong responded to put out the blaze.
Bachelder said one structure, which looked like a barn with a small apartment, was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.
“We probably had the field and brush under control within (90 minutes) and then spent the rest of time getting the structure out,” Bachelder said. “We were able to get a small engine in there and set up portable pumps and pumped water from the brook.”
There are three or four camps in the area. The building that burned is believed to be owned by someone out of state, he said. Other camp owners are from the Turner area, he added.
Nelson said that apparently the fire started in the grass and the wind drove it toward the barn.
The ATV was 10 or 12 years old and the spark arrester in the exhaust system had rusted out, Nelson said.
It’s important that people check the exhaust systems, he said, though newer ATVs should be safer than older ones.
Maine law requires spark arresters on all machinery used in the woods, he said, including ATVs, chain saws and skidders.