Fireworks spark blaze in Sumner

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SUMNER – A forest fire that burned 9.2 acres off Black Mountain Road was unwittingly started Tuesday afternoon by four area hikers who set off two Roman candle fireworks.

Maine Forest Service Ranger Jay Bernard said Tuesday evening at the fire scene that one young man, whom Bernard said took responsibility, was summoned and charged with causing the fire.

Bernard declined to identify him.

There were no injuries.

Damage to the mature hardwoods lot between two stone walls was not expected to be much, but fire suppression costs were expected to be in the thousands.

“It’s possible that the person who discharged the fireworks would have to pay for the cost,” but, ultimately, that decision is up to the fire chiefs who responded, Bernard said.

Thirty firefighters from Sumner, West Paris, Buckfield, Canton, Peru and Woodstock responded to the 3:30 p.m. 911 call, with many arriving to find the hardwood stand ablaze.

One crew and truck set up on the dirt road to prevent the fire from spreading to a large farmhouse owned by 100-year-old Roger Brigham, who was not home, Bernard said.

Bernard said he arrived next to find flames ripping through ground juniper and dry leaf litter.

“Burning ground juniper sounds like a freight train, and gives pretty good flame height. Within an hour, the fire grew in size twice as much as it was when it started,” Bernard said.

“It took a good charge up the mountain, but they did a great job of knocking it down and keeping it to 9.2 acres,” Bernard said.

When he headed up the mountain to assess the fire, Bernard said he came upon the hikers.

They lit the fireworks off on the road “to celebrate” their hike up Black Mountain, he said.

After reaching the summit, the quartet descended and saw fire spreading from the spot where the fireworks were set off. They tried in vain to extinguish it, then called for help, Bernard said.

“I found the four individuals trying to put the fire out. Some were near exhaustion, so I sent them down to be assessed” by Tri-Town Ambulance, he said.

The hikers, he added, are naturalists who “showed a lot of remorse, and were very cooperative.”

By about 6 p.m., weary, soot-blackened firefighters had the blaze extinguished and were working their way back down the rugged slopes, dousing hot spots and raking leaf litter away from charred areas to create a fire line.

Forty-five minutes later, they returned to the road below to regroup at the command center, Med-Care Ambulance’s new sport utility vehicle.

After a much needed break, they headed back to douse hot spots.

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