Fire scorches 4½ acres, destroys outhouse off Hodge Hill Road


HARTFORD – About 30 firefighters from six departments fought a woods fire late Saturday morning that burned 4 acres and destroyed an outhouse off Hodge Hill Road.

It took about 90 minutes to contain and extinguish the wind-swept blaze, Canton Assistant Chief Mark Blanchette said three hours after the 11:30 a.m. fire.

“It started almost as a structure fire, then the wind turned direction and pushed it uphill,” Blanchette said.

“We only had five Canton firefighters here, and it got ahead of us, and we couldn’t stop it,” he added.

That’s when he requested a Maine Forest Service helicopter to help fight the fire, but the closest one was 90 minutes away.

“By the time it got here, we had it contained,” Blanchette said.

The fire was reported by a crew working with an excavator at a nearby camp. They smelled smoke, but didn’t see much of it.

Hartford Fire Warden Norm St. Pierre, however, also saw the smoke from Church Street in Canton, and rushed to the rugged backcountry spot off the western shore of Canton Lake.

“When I got here, the little outhouse was just starting to catch, and there were little fingers of fire going into the woods. I listened to it crackling right up the hill,” he said.

“The excavator crew was real helpful,” St. Pierre added.

After walking the fire’s perimeter, Forest Ranger John Leavitt said the cause was under investigation. He didn’t believe it started from the privy.

An aerosol spray can lay on the ground near where the blaze was thought to have started, its exterior partially burned and its bright orange top partially melted.

The fire swept over a 20- to 30-foot high ledge, then continued down a hollow between two ledges. By 2:30 p.m., firefighters were dousing hot spots before taking a break and regrouping after the arrival of a Red Cross/Salvation Army food truck.

In addition to Canton, other departments responding with tankers and/or personnel were, Dixfield, Peru, Hartford, Sumner, and Buckfield. Turner Rescue also responded, along with Med-Care Ambulance Director Dean Milligan and the Oxford County mobile command center sport-utility vehicle.