Maine forest rangers and firefighters made progress Tuesday rubbing out a fire that has smoldered, flared and smoked high atop Mount Abraham since a lightning strike a week ago, but possible thunderstorms presented a new challenge Tuesday.

Tough terrain and a lack of nearby water, coupled with wind and dry conditions, had made fighting the fire near the summit of the 4,050-foot mountain, also known as Mount Abram, tough through the weekend and Monday.

Tuesday afternoon fire crews also were keeping their eyes on possible developing thunder cells coming through later in the day and were being updated on weather forecasts every couple of hours, said Ranger Shane Nichols, of the Maine Forest Service, crew chief and incident commander at the scene.

“We’re watching those storms and if they develop, we’ll move the crews down below tree line,” he said Tuesday by phone. The National Weather Service had issued a special weather statement shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday for northern Franklin County, saying it was tracking a cluster of strong thunderstorms that could bring “dime-size hail,” wind gusts of 45 to 55 mph and heavy rain.

Nichols said the mountain fire west of Kingfield, in Franklin County, was being fought Tuesday by a fire crew of 18, including three rangers, double the size since Sunday. One helicopter was in use Tuesday.

Crews have been working to put out the fire on the mountain all weekend.

“There is less smoke showing, but there still is heat on the perimeter,” Nichols said.

Meanwhile, a fire that burned overnight on Mount Blue in Temple was 95 percent contained shortly after 1 p.m., the Maine Forest Service tweeted.

The fire, which also was caused by lightning, was reported around 6 p.m. Monday and burned less than an acre.

On Mount Abram, fire crews will continue to pour water on the fire for the next couple of days, during which the danger and the possible spread of the fire will be constantly evaluated, until “a certain point when it will turn into more of a patrol status.”

Nichols said the total size of the fire is hard to determine, but he estimated Monday that 43 acres had burned since last Wednesday’s lightning strike ignited the tall cedar trees and mountain tundra underbrush. “The amount of perimeter is so vast, it’s not measurable,” he said Tuesday.

“We have a crew of firefighters up there and we have more of our blivets set up up there; and we now have a 1,200-gallon Fol-Da-Tank up there that’s full of water, and they’re in the process of pumping water out of that to work the perimeter,” he said.

A Fol-Da-Tank is a large collapsible water container to help with fire suppression in remote areas where water sources are scarce. Blivets are triangular bags that hold water in two sizes, 72 gallons and 134 gallons, and are delivered by helicopter to marked spots on the mountain. There is no water near the mountain’s summit, and helicopter crews were getting it from a small pond west of the mountain.

Nichols said conditions on the summit “are what you’d see in a dry August” and firefighters battled tough terrain, dry conditions and wind.

Nichols said the firefighters on Mount Abram are specially trained crews that are called up when the federal government needs reinforcements fighting Western fires. One of the squads is made up of local firefighters, he said. There are regional teams from southern, central and northern regions of the state, which also are sent out West when needed.

“They know what they’re doing. They’re a very knowledgeable group of firefighters,” he said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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