For several months, Chelsea Fire Chief Shawn Ramage had shut off his town’s access to an online service that issues burn permits.

Warden’s Report is available to Chelsea residents again, however, now that its developer has submitted his system to the state Bureau of Forestry for review.

“It seems like it’s more or less approved,” Ramage said Thursday. “The waiting period has gone by. Everything seems more OK.”

While the bureau didn’t approve its use, it also didn’t deny it. And under state law, that’s all that’s required.

For more than a year, state forestry officials and the creators of two online private services have been pressing their cases on the issue of burn permits to state lawmakers.

The state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has maintained the state is best served by a single issuer of burn permits, namely, the state, which provides online permits through the Maine Burn Permit System. Those permits are good for two days and cost $7, part of which is returned to the municipalities where the permits are issued.


But Gary Hickey II and Matthew Scott have developed two other ways to get permits through online platforms they each developed, Warden’s Report and Burning Permit, respectively. They say their services are more convenient and free to state residents.

Earlier this year, L.D. 1809 became law when the Legislature overwhelming overrode a veto by Gov. Paul LePage.

Under its provisions, the director of the Bureau of Forestry must allow communities to continue to use private services to issue burn permits if the software meets requirements spelled out in state law. Up to two private services are allowed. The director has 10 days to approve the private software being used. If the director fails to approve or deny the use of the software, the municipality may use it.

It also authorizes the director to adopt major substantive rules relating to burn permit software.

On Thursday, John Bott, director of Communications for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said via email that only one provider has requested review so far.

“Under a provision of the law that passed, the Director of the Bureau of Forestry did not approve or deny burn permit software within 10 business days,” Bott wrote.


That provider was Warden’s Report.

“We’ve been in kind of limbo,” Hickey said Thursday.

Shortly after the bill became law in July, Hickey submitted his software for review.

“I was hoping we would get some sort of formal approval,” he said.

As the operator of the system, Hickey said he’s pleased. As a fire chief — Hickey is the fire chief in West Gardiner — he said it’s disappointing.

About 90 cities and towns have signed up for Warden’s Report, including Limington and Palermo most recently.


“A lot of chiefs were hesitant because they wanted to see what action the state would take,” Hickey said.

Burning Permit’s Scott didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A little more than a year ago, the Forest Service notified communities using either Warden’s Report and Burning Permit that their residents might be guilty of a crime if they relied on permits issued online by either of those services rather than using the state’s own service, Maine Open Burn Permit.

The state’s online system allows burns only after 5 p.m., while local fire chiefs and wardens have discretion to allow or ban burns during the day, depending on weather conditions and other factors.

A number of fire chiefs have said they prefer the private systems over the state system, in part because the state charges a fee for its online permits.

While debating L.D. 1809, legislators had agreed, at the urging of Chief Forest Ranger William Hamilton, to eliminate the $7 charge. A last-minute change to push the bill through restored the fee.


In his veto letter, LePage said the change “negatively discriminates against residents and businesses operating in Maine’s unorganized territories and rural towns, which lack the capacity or resources to contract with an online service.”

“My residents like it,” Ramage said, of Warden’s Report. “It’s easy and convenient, and I can turn it off and on with a touch of my phone.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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