Crews called to brush fire amid red-flag warning

Firefighters battled a brush fire on Turkey Lane on Friday, a day when the National Weather Service issued its red-flag warning indicating critical fire danger.

The fire broke out near power lines about 12:45 p.m. and crews brought it under control within 30 minutes.

Forest rangers say the early spring has exposed dry brush and other fuel from last fall, which ignite easily.

“Everything is dry, brown and dead and just ready to burn,” said Kent Nelson, who heads up forest fire prevention efforts for the Maine Forest Service. “If you add a little wind to this situation and a spark, it’s going to go.”

“It’s just until we get some green up in the forest floor and some grasses start to green up,” he said. “These fine fuels want to burn … You’re not going to have fires burning deep into the ground. They’re usually easy to extinguish. It’s just that they can run fast and move quick along the surface.”

Dry conditions, winds gusting to 30 mph and relative humidity of 20 to 25 percent have created critical fire danger in southern Maine and New Hampshire, according to the weather service in Gray.

The fire danger climbs every spring, as the ground dries out before new growth, Nelson said, although this year that process may happen earlier. Rain helps, but the fine fuels, less than one quarter inch in diameter, dry quickly, he said.

The warm weather can be a boon as it can stimulate quicker growth of new shoots, he said.


Temperature records tumble as warm spell winds down

The record-breaking warmth in northern New England lasted one more day Friday, but is probably coming to an end.

In Portland, another record fell Friday. It was 67 degrees at 1 p.m. at the Portland International Jetport, breaking the record of 66 degrees for the day set in 1953.

Concord, N.H., had five consecutive days of hot weather records this week, but Friday the temperature was shy of the record of 80 degrees for the date. Temperatures are expected to be cooler across the region beginning today.


Education Department says no thanks to pink slime

Maine’s Education Department is saying no thanks to ground beef containing so-called “pink slime.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week that school districts can now choose whether or not the beef they get through the federal school lunch program contains the ammonia-treated filler.

The Maine Department of Education announced Thursday that the USDA beef it gets next year won’t contain the filler. But that doesn’t mean that all beef served at public schools will be free of it.

Education officials said schools get 10-15 percent of food from the USDA, and the rest from other food suppliers. If local schools want to be totally free of “pink slime,” they’ll have to talk to their food suppliers regarding the beef that isn’t purchased through the U.S. Education Department.

Attorney general warns diabetes patients of scam

Maine’s attorney general is warning diabetes patients about an apparent scam involving diabetes supplies.

Attorney General William Schneider said his office is receiving reports of Mainers getting phone calls from people claiming to be from Medicare who are offering free medical supplies in exchange for Medicare information. In some cases, diabetes patients are receiving supplies they didn’t order in an apparent ploy by scammers to defraud Medicare.

Schneider said Thursday it’s apparent that diabetes patients are being targeted for their Medicare numbers.

Schneider urged people to be suspicious of callers who offer free medical supplies and then ask for Medicare or financial information, and to never provide their Medicare number or other personal information over the phone.

Occupy protester convicted on criminal trespass charges

The first of nine people to go to trial on criminal trespass charges stemming from an Occupy-inspired protest at the Blaine House has been convicted.

Jurors on Friday returned a guilty verdict against 59-year-old Diane Messer, who said she was exercising her First Amendment rights when she and others refused to leave the Blaine House grounds.

The Kennebec Journal said Messer testified she wanted to negotiate a compromise after authorities demanded a daytime-only permit for Occupy Augusta protesters to remain in Capitol Park.

Prosecutors said the problem was the location, not the message, when demonstrators went to the Blaine House on Nov. 27. The Capitol Park encampment disbanded after a federal judge ruled on Dec. 7 that banning camping in the park didn’t stymie free speech.


Damariscotta man injured when pickup truck crashes

A Damariscotta man is in critical condition at Maine Medical Center in Portland after the pickup he was driving crashed in Bremen on Thursday night.

Stephen Hanna, 27, was driving a 1996 Ford F150 pickup at high speed when he lost control about 7:30 p.m. on Turner Road, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

Hanna, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the cab. The truck hit a tree and rolled over.

Rescue workers responded and took Hanna to Miles Hospital and a LifeFlight helicopter then flew him to Maine Medical Center.

Police said speed contributed to the crash, and they are investigating to determine whether alcohol was also involved.


Authorities seek culprits who vandalized statue

Police in South Berwick are looking for the vandal or vandals who knocked over a statue worth at least $10,000 on the grounds of the historic Hamilton House gardens and stole the head.

Lt. Chris Burbank said officers responded to the Hamilton House gardens Tuesday and found a marble statue of what appeared to be a woman shattered on the ground.

The statue was encased in a wooden box to protect it from the winter weather.

Police told Foster’s Daily Democrat the statue was “far too heavy” for the wind to knock down.

The statue’s head was also missing. The statue is estimated by police to be worth between $10,000 and $15,000.


Work on Memorial Bridge filmed for Travel Channel

The dismantling of the Memorial Bridge that connected New Hampshire to Maine is getting some attention from a Travel Channel television show.

A crew from the Travel Channel was filming some of the work as the nearly 90-year-old bridge is being taken apart to make way for a new one.

The Portsmouth Herald reported that Don Wildman, host of the show “Off Limits,” was even hoisted to the top of the south lift span tower to watch as welders started to prepare to remove 450-ton counterweights from the tower.

The “Off Limits” crew travels across the country, visiting places “most of us take for granted but are typically off limits to the average, everyday citizen,” said crew member Ed Wellington.

The show is expected to air sometime this summer.


Motorized wheelchair back with elderly Lewiston owner

An 80-year-old Lewiston man whose motorized wheelchair was stolen this week has received some good news from police.

Authorities said the wheelchair was recovered Thursday and they have suspects in the theft, although there have been no arrests.

Dana Huard said someone stole the wheelchair from under his window as he was sleeping early Sunday morning.

Huard’s daughter said the chair is her father’s lifeline because he cannot drive due to failing eyesight.

His daughter told the Sun Journal that the family has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community, including numerous offers from strangers to replace the wheelchair, which cost thousands of dollars.


Snowmobile breaks through thin ice on Moosehead Lake

Maine game wardens are warning of severely weakened ice all around the state after a snowmobile broke through on Moosehead Lake.

Twenty-three-year-old Isiah Gray of Greenville Junction said he swam for about 150 yards while trying to get to land.

He said the ice kept breaking before someone came to his aid Thursday evening.

Warden Paul Mason told the Bangor Daily News that Gray was lucky the incident happened close to shore.

Gray said his muscles were starting to lock up in the extreme cold before he managed to get out of the water. His snowmobile was recovered Friday.


Man shot outside home arrested on drug charge

One of the four men who was shot outside a home in Lamoine earlier this month has been arrested on an unrelated drug charge.

Police said 25-year-old Joshua McKinney was arrested early Friday after Ellsworth police stopped his vehicle and found drugs in the car. Police said McKinney’s license had been revoked and he had prescription drugs that were in someone else’s name.

McKinney was released on bail and couldn’t be reached for comment.

No one has been charged in the shootings that wounded McKinney and two others on March 11. A fourth victim, Lawrence “Randy” Sinclair of Ellsworth, died from his wound.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, told the Bangor Daily News that there are no new developments in the investigation.

— From staff and news services