Contacts: Bill Greaves, 592-9073
Maine Forest Service: Forest Rangers Charge Presque Isle Man in Suspicious Wildfires
(April 23, 2012)
AUGUSTA, Maine – A Presque Isle man has been charged by Maine Forest Service Forest Rangers in connection with three small wildfires set earlier this month.
Chad Hamilton, 23, was charged on Sunday with one count of felony aggravated criminal mischief and three counts of criminal mischief for allegedly starting three wildfires in April in the city of Presque Isle.
Hamilton became the focus of the investigation of the fires early on, according to MFS Forest Ranger Steve Wipperman, the lead investigator on the cases. All of the fires occurred in the city adjacent to the town's ATV trail.
Physical evidence found at the fire scenes tied Hamilton to the fires, stated Wipperman, who is the MFS forensic specialist. The investigator also used footage from a business surveillance camera to aid in the investigation.
Hamilton is accused of allegedly starting three small wildfires. The first occurred in the evening of April 7 and was located on the ATV trail known as the Maysville Connector, burning a quarter acre. The second was on the morning of April 13, in a location between the Veterans of Foreign Wars building and Bonville Airs Trailer Park. The fire burned a half acre of brush before being contained. The third wildfire also was located on the ATV trail and started on the evening of April 16. That fire burned nearly an acre of grass and brush.
According to MFS Ranger Lt. Bill Greaves, the fires were reported and extinguished very quickly by Presque Isle firefighters, so damage was limited to only brush.
"There were structures near all three scenes, however, and we consider any wildfire to be dangerous," Greaves said. MFS Forest Rangers also credited the Presque Isle Fire Department in making some key observations when arriving at one of the fires, as well as preserving some scene evidence.
Hamilton will be arraigned at Maine District Court in Presque Isle in July. If convicted, he faces up to 5 years in prison on the aggravated criminal mischief charge, and up to one year on each criminal mischief charge.
The Maine Forest Service has responded to nearly 300 wildfires this season, more than triple the amount for this time last year. The fires have been keeping MFS forest rangers, ranger pilots and local fire crews very busy.
Anyone with information on these or any other suspicious wildfires is asked to call the Maine wildfire arson hotline at 1-800-987-0257.
For more information about the Maine Forest Service, go to: http://www.maineforestservice.gov
For more information about the Maine Forest Rangers, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/ffchome.htm