Wildfire risk assessment is underway

MOUNT DESERT — Maine forest rangers will be assessing wildfire risks around homes along Pretty Marsh Road in Mount Desert and Indian Point Road in Bar Harbor during the first week in October.

Assessments will be done at 30-40 randomly selected properties.

Mount Desert Fire Chief Mike Bender and Bar Harbor Fire Chief Matt Bartlett approached the Maine Forest Service last year about conducting the risk assessments because of concerns about wildfires in the Pretty Marsh and Indian Point areas.

“There have not been any wildland fires in that area that we know of,” Bartlett said. “But it has a lot of slash and downed debris. So, that’s an area we would like to be proactive with, to get some awareness and help lessen the risk of having a wildland fire.”

Bender said the areas to be assessed also are “a long way from either of the towns’ main fire stations, and there are no major water sources over there.”

A federal Community Wildfire Protection Plan grant is funding the Maine Forest Service’s wildfire risk assessments in communities around the state.

For next week’s assessments in Mount Desert and Bar Harbor, a forest ranger will be accompanied by one or two local firefighters.

“They know the lay of the land and can explain [to the homeowner] what they are doing,” Bartlett said.

He said they would respect the wishes of homeowners who don’t want their property assessed.

If the homeowner doesn’t object, a forest ranger will look at risk factors such as the proximity of trees and shrubs to homes and other structures and the types of siding and roofing materials. They also will note whether a driveway is too narrow or if overhanging branches are too low for fire trucks to pass through. And the rangers will look at whether there is a water supply nearby that would be adequate for fire fighting.

The fire risk assessors will fill out a form for each property they inspect, but neither the address nor the homeowner’s name will be included. Forest rangers are expected to present a report – not on individual properties, but on their overall findings – next spring.

“They will do a report for both towns and for the landowners in those areas on what, if anything, can be done to better protect their property from the threat of wildfire,” Bender said.

He said wildfire risk assessments will be conducted in different locations on Mount Desert Island in each of the next two years.

“It’s a joint effort between Bar Harbor and Mount Desert, but I think next year, we’ll plan to include Southwest Harbor and Tremont if they want to participate,” Bender said. “We would like to tie in all the towns and look at the areas on the island that really need to be assessed.”

A broader goal of the risk assessment program, he said, is to increase the public’s awareness of wildland fire dangers.



Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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