A Maine Forest Service helicopter drops water on a brush fire near Great Pond in Cape Elizabeth. The helicopter made several trips, drawing water from the pond with a bucket shown hanging from the chopper. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

A brush fire that broke out Wednesday morning in a heavily wooded area of Cape Elizabeth was brought under control with help from a Maine Forest Service helicopter that dumped water on the blaze.

It was the second major brush fire of the day. Another ignited early Wednesday morning near a commercial center in West Falmouth. Investigators said both fires appear to have been started by campfires that were not properly extinguished.

The fires occurred three days after the forest service designated all of Maine at “high” risk for wildfires – the middle of its scale, above “moderate” and “low” but below “very high” and “extreme.” Maine also is experiencing an unusually active fire season with 969 total wildfires in the state as of Tuesday having destroyed about 985 acres of forest, service said. The number is a stark increase from last year’s wet and rainy summer, when there were only 356 fires, he said.

Cape Elizabeth Fire Chief Peter Gleeson said his department started receiving calls around 11 a.m. from passersby who reported smelling smoke in the area around Great Pond off Fowler Road.

But the fire presented a tactical problem, Gleeson said. It was burning in a remote wooded area located on the other side of Great Pond from the nearest paved street. Crews began staging equipment on Fenway Road and boats from the Portland Fire Department and the Cape Elizabeth Fire Department were used to transport firefighters across Great Pond, Cape Elizabeth’s largest wetland.

Gleeson said it appears the fire was ignited by a campfire that had not been properly extinguished. The Maine Forest Service is investigating the cause.

Earlier in the day, another brush fire broke out in Falmouth, near West Falmouth Crossing, a commercial center off Gray Road. Falmouth Fire Chief Howard Rice Jr. said the department began receiving reports around 2:42 a.m. of a brush fire behind the Hannaford supermarket.

Assistant Fire Chief Jay Hallett was the first firefighter on scene. Hallett called in two fire engines, an ambulance and two utility trucks as strong wind gusts caused the fire to spread down an embankment toward railroad tracks. Rice said the fire spread over uneven terrain, making it difficult to fight, but by 4:30 p.m., it had been brought under control after burning about an acre. The railroad tracks were not damaged.

Rice said firefighters found remnants of a campfire in the area where the brush fire started. More than 20 firefighters from Falmouth responded.

The Maine Forest Service fought a couple of wildfires in northern Maine on Wednesday, including one near Seboeis Lake, the forest service said in a Facebook post. The Caribou office of the National Weather Service declared an elevated fire danger for the region between Bangor and Hancock County

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