ELLSWORTH — Local firefighters and the Maine Forest Service were called out to extinguish a fire on an uninhabited island in Branch Lake on Tuesday afternoon.
The fire, on Steres Island in Winkumpaugh Cove in the northwest corner of the lake, was reported a little before 1 p.m. There are no structures on the six-acre island, and reports indicated no one was on the island when the fire was spotted.
The Forest Service reported later Tuesday afternoon that the cause was an illegal campfire.
Firefighters from Ellsworth and Orland responded, as Orland has a boat that was used to get to the scene.
Lamoine firefighters covered the Ellsworth station while city firefighters responded to the call.
Ellsworth officials recently approved purchasing such a boat for the city’s fire department, but it is not yet in the department’s possession. Private boats also responded and helped ferry firefighters and equipment to the scene.
A Forest Service helicopter, which carries a 240-gallon bucket beneath it, came to the scene and made repeated water drops. Crews were then going to go on to the island and knock down what fire was left after the helicopter’s work was completed.
Ellsworth Fire Chief Richard Tupper said the island is very rocky, which complicated the work of firefighters.
“It’s difficult, at best, to chase it down,” he said of the fire. “You really have to flood every cavity with water to make sure it’s out.”
Tupper said there is sometimes a misconception that a helicopter with a bucket can take care of the fire all by itself. He said it is a critical tool in fighting the fire, and very helpful to have, but that crews must go in and look for hot spots to be sure the fire is fully extinguished.
City property records indicate the island is owned by Douglas DeAngelis of Massachusetts, who also owns the smaller, adjacent Dees Island.