OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Firefighters extinguished a four-alarm brush fire that burned 28 acres and prompted precautionary evacuations from condominiums and apartment complexes in Old Orchard Beach Friday afternoon.

Police and firefighters poured into the Woodbridge apartment complex, which abuts the marsh where the fire was burning.

Smoke was visible about 250 yards from the apartments. Police advised residents to prepare to clear the area.

Old Orchard Beach Fire Chief Rick Plummer said his department was first called to the brush fire moments before 4 p.m.

Flames erupted in the marsh around the Little River, but Plummer said it’s not yet known what caused the fire or where the flames began.

“The wind was blowing so hard, every street we went down the fire had already gone past that,” he said.


Plummer said he decided to make a stand at the Davenport condo complex near Milliken Street.

As the winds shifted, flames came within 100 feet of the complex, he said.

“We were getting ready to pull out,” Plummer said. “Flames were 20 to 30 feet high, just a wall of fire and heat.”

Firefighters prevented any damage to the complex.

“It could have been a lot worse. It could have burned this condominium down,” the fire chief said.

Plummer and another fire official said they knew of no injuries to firefighters or residents, or of any property damage caused by the brush fire.


After the fire began, Plummer said, he called immediately for a Maine Forest Service helicopter, which delivered water to the center of an otherwise inaccessible area in the marsh.

Plummer estimated that more than 100 firefighters from as far away as Lyman and Goodwins Mills responded.

Crews mopped up for several hours after the fire and continue to douse hot spots Friday night, said Fire Capt. John Gilboy.

He said fire officials were expected to remain on the scene Saturday to try to determine the cause of the fire.

At the height of the fire, smoke was visible from as far away as Interstate 295 in Portland.

The Maine Forest Service had posted a “red flag warning,” its highest rating for forest fire danger, on Friday for Washington, Hancock, southern Piscataquis and southern Penobscot counties, and crews battled a brush fire Friday afternoon in Bar Harbor.


The risk of fire in southern coastal Maine was rated as “very high” by the agency.

In Old Orchard Beach, crews set up near homes and apartments nearest to the fire, which burned in a large marshy area with dry grass at least 5 feet tall.

There did not appear to be a central staging area for firefighters, and residents and emergency crews moved around one another as people evacuated their homes and firefighters worked their way closer to the flames.

Jennifer Evans, 31, was out for a walk when she first saw the smoke rising from the marsh. Her brother, a firefighter in Portland, called to tell her to evacuate.

She and her husband and their newborn twin boys climbed into their sport utility vehicle to prepare to leave.

Evans said she has lived in the Woodbridge apartment complex for five years, and nothing like this had ever happened.

“We went onto our back porch and every time the wind whipped up, the flames kicked higher,” Evans said.

Firefighters said the fires moved swiftly, driven by gusts of wind.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

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