STARKS — A woods fire on the Starks side of Route 43 near the Industry-Starks town line that burned about 4 acres Wednesday, spurring a response from 16 area departments, is a reminder that this isn’t a normal fire season.

The fire, which drew firefighters from Franklin and Somerset counties, was contained quickly, despite high wind on a day when the fire danger in each of the state’s seven weather zones was high.

Forest Ranger Mark Rousseau said the risk of fire has been abnormally high this spring, which has been the busiest one the Forest Service has had in the last five years.

“This has been a very, very active season for us this spring throughout the entire state,” Rousseau said Wednesday

Lack of rain, paired with a delayed green-up in vegetation, means the Forest Service is seeing fires started from things that typically wouldn’t start a fire, such as sparks from machinery or exhaust igniting dry brush on the side of the road.

He urged people to be aware of the daily fire danger class through the remainder of the spring. He said it is also important to report any smoke or fire that people see.

“If you absolutely have to do any outside burning, make sure that you wait until conditions are suitable,” Rousseau said. “It really takes very little to spark a fire.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the Forest Service also reported brush fires in Dixfield, Passadumkeag, Indian Purchase, Bath and Bowdoinham. Fire danger in all of the state’s geographic zones was at 3, which is high, meaning that “all fine dead fuels ignite readily and fires start easily from most causes,” according to the Forest Service website.

A large turnout of firefighters from many area departments battle a wind-driven woods fire off Route 43 in Starks on Wednesday.

A large turnout of firefighters from many area departments battle a wind-driven woods fire off Route 43 in Starks on Wednesday. David Leaming/Morning Sentinel Staff photo by David Leaming

Firefighters at the scene of the Starks fire, which was reported around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, said it was contained shortly after noon.

Around 12:30 p.m., dozens of firefighters were working to mop up the fire. They headed into the forest with hand tools and hoses to dig up and douse the charred forest floor. Rousseau, who said crews still were working at the scene in mid-afternoon, said the fire burned 4.2 acres of privately owned wooded area on the Starks side of Route 43, and it destroyed a pickup truck belonging to the landowner that was parked on the property. He said the town of Starks was trying to contact the landowner.

Besides the 16 fire departments that helped fight the fire, the Forest Service deployed a helicopter to douse the fire from the air, but it was called off as ground crews quickly contained the fire, Rousseau said.

The blaze was reported Wednesday morning when a motorist on Mile Hill Road in New Sharon saw smoke, according to Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols.

When firefighters found the blaze, flames were crowning in the trees, according to Farmington Deputy Fire Chief Tim Hardy.

Because of the fire’s location — away from an established water supply and in a place where the wind was hitting 10 to 20 mph — Rousseau said fire crews did a great job working in difficult conditions to contain it.

“It was a very windy, very dry day. There was no established water supply,” Rousseau said. “We had to truck all of the water in.”

Crews filled up pumper trucks at Clearwater Pond in Industry, about 5 miles from the scene.

Fire crews from Industry, New Sharon, Starks, New Vineyard, Kingfield, Chesterville, Temple, Phillips, East Dixfield, Wilton, Jay, Farmington, Livermore Falls, Anson, Eustis and Madison responded to the fire.

The Forest Service still is investigating the cause of the Starks fire. Rousseau said the landowner had a permitted burn on the property Sunday, which the fire service is looking into.

Rousseau, who is also the Phillips fire chief, said that the high fire danger means fires can easily be sparked and they spread quickly.

A fire Tuesday in Levant was started by sparks from a utility pole, the Forest Service reported on its Facebook page, which has posted several fire reports a day recently.

A fire Tuesday in Phillips engulfed a garage in the seven minutes between the time it was reported and when crews arrived at the scene. Rousseau attributed the fire’s quick spread to the dry conditions.