Washington County wildfire consumes 32 acres



MAINE FOREST SERVICE PHOTO

ELLSWORTH — A wildfire tore through 32 acres in Washington County on Aug. 31, consuming some land owned by the Worcester Wreath Company.

The Maine Forest Service was still on scene Friday.

Morrill Worcester, president of the wreath company, said he hadn’t visited the property as of Sep. 1, but knew there were about 20 people still watching the scene in Columbia Falls.

“There will be [people on site] until it rains on Sunday, because it’s so dry,” he said.

The Downeast region has seen less rainfall than usual this year, according to National Weather Service data. Schoodic Institute’s Forest Ecology Program Director Nick Fisichelli confirmed earlier this week to The American that the eastern Hancock region is in a moderate drought this year.

“We lost 32 acres, but we could have lost 1,000 acres of our’s alone,” Worcester said. “There’s a lot of forested fuel from Rt. 1 to Jonesport… They probably wouldn’t have had a chance to stop it.”

The fire did not reach several sites associated with Wreaths Across America, an organization Worcester founded to place wreaths on veterans’ graves.

Worcester said a memorial cemetery, a chapel and about 3,000 trees tagged by families in honor of loved ones were all safe from the blaze. The area damaged by the fire was designated for tipping for wreaths, but wasn’t scheduled to be harvested for another two years.

MAINE FOREST SERVICE PHOTO

It was only a matter of time before a wildfire affected his business, Worcester said. After Thursday’s fire, though, he said he’s planning to be more prepared for a future blaze.

“We’ve talked it over, even last night,” he said the morning after the wildfire. “We’re gonna be in the market for our own fire trucks, something that’s a surplus to a town, so that we can be prepared ourselves.”

He said family members appreciate everything that was done for them, “but it would be comforting to have it.”

Worcester family members released this statement about the fire on Thursday afternoon:

“Most important, all of our employees, family and the dozens of local volunteers and community members who have come to our aid, are safe… None of the affected area is designated for this year’s harvest for Wreaths Across America and the fire is a safe distance from the acres of remembrance trees that are tagged with the names of fallen veterans.

“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to all the volunteers and first responders putting themselves in harm’s way,” Worcester family representatives said in a statement. “This land and trees serve a greater mission that we know so many care deeply for.”

Jack Dodson
Jack Dodson began working for The Ellsworth American in mid-2017, and covers eastern Hancock and western Washington counties. He grew up in the Mid-coast region before living in New York City for five years, where he freelanced in documentary filmmaking and journalism. He is particularly interested in criminal justice, environment and immigration reporting.

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