The site of an illegal campsite in Freeport, which sparked a forest fire is taped off after crews extinguished the blaze. Courtesy of the Maine Forest Rangers

FREEPORT — Half an acre of conserved land in Freeport burned in a forest fire last week after an illegal campfire was improperly extinguished, according to Freeport Fire and Rescue officials. 

Crews responded to a call about a forest fire off Staples Point Road just before 2:30 p.m. June 26, Chief Charles Jordan said. The property is owned by Freeport Conservation Trust, but according to Director Katrina Van Dusen, there is no public landside access, which initially caused problems for the crews, who struggled to reach the fire. They ultimately were able to get access through an old logging trail. 

Crews from Yarmouth, Pownal, Durham and North Yarmouth battled the blaze, spraying over 15,000 gallons of water, Jordan said. 

The fire was knocked down by  8:30 p.m. after destroying about half an acre of forested land, according to the report. Crews returned to the site the following day and doused it with an additional 2,250 gallons of water to eliminate any remaining hot spots. 

After nearly two months without rain, the fire danger was extremely high, fire officials said in their report.

According to Jim Britt, spokesman for the Maine Forest Service, officials were not able to find the person who started the fire. 

The 22-acre conserved parcel is made up of “three lobes, intersected by fingers of marsh,” Van Dusen said. This land, primarily forest and coastal marsh, is “super valuable” as both a habitat and as an aid in the fight against climate change, she said, adding that someday, if the trust can get public access, it could open up recreation. 

The spot currently can only be reached by trespassing. 

“People should not have been there, nor should they have been having a fire or camping overnight,” Van Dusen said. 

“This is a time that people are looking for things to do outside locally, but it’s perilous,” she said. “I get that everyone needs an escape. I’m not trying to get on the case of people doing stuff like (camping), but try to find a way to do it safely.”

“There should be a way for us to learn about fire danger without a forest fire,” she added. 

Jordan cautioned that despite recent rains, the fire danger is likely to creep up again. 

Campers should make sure that any fires are built on solid soil that is not dry underneath and be sure to bring plenty of water to extinguish the flames. 

“If you think it takes a gallon of water to put it out, use three,” he said. 

This story has been updated.

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