AUGUSTA — State lawmakers are working to draft a legislative fix to the ban that’s been imposed on fire permits being issued via online sites other than that of the Maine Forest Service.

The move comes after lawmakers and the people who run Warden’s Report and met with members of the governor’s staff Tuesday morning to discuss whether the state’s ban on those services could be changed.

Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, said Tuesday he hopes to run a bill Wednesday that would allow towns to contract with private companies to issue online burn permits.

Saviello and other legislators have been fielding calls from constituents on the ban since the weekend.

Late last week, cities and towns started receiving letters from the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry warning them not to use any online burn permit issuing service other than the state’s own.

While residents can get paper burn permits free, using the state’s online system costs $7.


While the authority to issue paper burn permits is allowed to be delegated to town officials by state law, they say no authority exists to delegate issuing online permits.

Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, said she has seen strong bipartisan support to clarify in state law the authority for online burn permits to be issued on private sites.

Bellows said there might have been a misunderstanding about how permits are issued.

“It’s not the sites that issue the permits,” she said. “The fire chiefs have complete control.”

Between the two sites, residents in more than 70 Maine communities are able to obtain online permits free.

Gary Hickey II runs Warden’s Report, a site that’s been growing in popularity. Warden’s Report charges a nominal annual fee to about 60 cities and towns for their residents to use the service. He said Monday a couple of communities that had signed on were dropping the service following the letter’s distribution.


Both he and Matthew Scott, who runs, a Web-based service that allows fire chiefs to issue online permits in 14 communities that use the service, spoke with legislators Tuesday at the State House.

“I look forward to hearing from any of the several senators that are punching this bill that has bipartisan support,” Scott said via email.

In his review of the statutes, Saviello said it suggests a choice exists. “A person may apply for a permit to burn using the Internet or as otherwise provided in this article.”

While he said the attorney general’s office disagrees with his interpretation, the legislation — requiring permission from six of 10 presiding officials in the House and the Senate, which he said he has — will make it clear that cities and towns can contract with private firms to allow online permits to be issued at no cost to residents.

“If these are small businesses that have been successful,” he said, “why wouldn’t we support them?”

On Monday, state officials said the move is intended to make the process safer and more efficient.


“Money has nothing to do with it,” said Kent Nelson, forest ranger specialist with the Maine Forest Service. “We want to provide a safe and convenient system that we can monitor and keep control of easily.”

In Maine, anyone burning brush, wood debris, grass or agricultural fields requires a permit issued either by the Maine Forest Service or the burner’s own city or town.

The letter sent to cities and towns last week made it clear that from the state’s perspective, it’s no longer permissible to use any outside service.

“Any resident burning without a valid permit issued or authorized by the MFS is committing a Class E crime and is subject to enforcement action,” the letter reads. “The Department does not recognize the validity of these private online systems nor does it consider valid any permit issued by a private, online system. We request that your community immediately discontinue its use of these systems.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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