The cause of a fire that burned for five hours, destroying about 2 acres of marsh Tuesday on the border of Winslow and China might have originated from a fire pit and probably was fueled by drier than normal weather conditions, according to the Winslow fire chief.

The fire was reported around 11:30 a.m. near Maple Ridge Road and was not completely out until about 4:30 p.m.

Winslow Fire Chief David LaFountain said the fire’s cause remained under investigation late Tuesday but might have started in a fire pit in the area. It was reported by someone driving on nearby China Road, which is Route 137, he said.

The Maine Forest Service on Tuesday listed central Maine as having a Class 3 fire danger day, which is high. Dry conditions this summer have heightened the likelihood of brush fires, emergency and fire officials have said.

According to the National Weather Service, central Maine has been experiencing moderate drought — marked by an extended period of more than 6 inches below the average rainfall for the year — since the end of June. Rainfall in July was 2 inches below the monthly average, and to date monthly rainfall for August is 0.78 inches below average, according to Michael Johnson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Gray. No widespread rain is in the forecast for the rest of the week.

Tuesday’s fire presented an additional challenge to firefighters because it was in a hard-to-reach area in the middle of a marsh, LaFountain said. “The problem was that we couldn’t drive to it,” he said.


In addition to firefighters from China, Waterville and Winslow, the Maine Forest Service responded with a helicopter to drop water on the fire.

“It was a stubborn area because of the canopy of pine trees there,” LaFountain said. “Even after the helicopter got in and was dropping water, they were still battling flames up to 2 feet high.”

LaFountain was not sure of the threat to the surrounding area.

The Waterville Regional Communications Center said earlier Tuesday that traffic on Route 137 was rerouted while the fire burned. Maple Ridge Road, off Route 137, runs from Winslow into China.

LaFountain again cautioned people to be aware that the dry conditions are escalating fire danger.

“People have to be careful with fires, get permits for outside fires and when they’re done make sure the fire is out,” LaFountain said.


He also cautioned people to make sure cigarettes are out before they are disposed of. Improperly discarded smoking materials were also the cause of a brush fire Monday outside a home in Madison that the fire chief there said also was fueled by dry conditions.

“We get a lot of mulch fires and nuisance fires around the city because of cigarettes,” LaFountain said. “People need to be careful.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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