Yesterday afternoon, a brush fire occurred at the Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary in Freeport. This sanctuary is a well-loved 145-acre diverse habitat rich in human and natural history. Located along the Harraseeket River estuary, it has more than three miles of trails that wind along a stream and tidal marsh and through orchard, fields, and forest.
Though a small portion of the sanctuary did suffer some damage, no individuals or infrastructure were damaged in the fire, and the forest canopy/midstory remains primarily intact.
Maine Audubon owes a huge thanks to the Freeport Fire Department and Freeport Deputy Chief Eric Sylvain for coordinating the response. More details have become clear this morning: The Freeport Fire Department received a call with a report of the fire yesterday afternoon, and with additional support from the North Yarmouth, Cumberland, Pownal, Durham, Yarmouth, Brunswick, and Falmouth Fire Departments, handled the fire. In total, roughly 1.5 acres of forest understory burned on the north side of the Mill Stream tributary. The tributary acted as a natural fire break to the southeast, and crews put out the fire as it continued to creep up the hill to the north/northwest. Firefighters had the blaze under control quickly with water and foam suppression, natural and manmade fire breaks, and were off site by 7:30 pm. Crews from multiple fire departments returned this morning to extinguish smoldering hot spots, assess the total extent of damage, and continue to inspect for an initiation point and cause.
While no cause can officially be determined, it is suspected that an improperly disposed-of cigarette butt might have been responsible. During the dry season, even the smallest ember can smolder in the duff for days until the relative humidity and winds create the perfect environment for ignition. In order to minimize the risk of fire on our sanctuaries, Maine Audubon prohibits the use of smoking products, fires, and open flames of any kind.
Maine Audubon is grateful to the Freeport Fire Department and all of the surrounding fire departments and additional responders to this incident. The Mast Landing Audubon Sanctuary will be closed to visitors for the rest of the day (November 9) and will reopen tomorrow for public use (November 10). If you choose to explore the sanctuary tomorrow, take caution as local hotspots in the burned areas may still exist, and please report any signs of smoking, smoldering, or reignition to the Freeport Fire Department and Maine Audubon (207-781-2330, firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible.