AUGUSTA- It only seems as though there’s been an unusual number of fires so far this year, but the state’s Fire Marshall Office investigators are being stretched to the max.
In the first three months of 2016, state investigators responded to 130 structure fires across the state. Of those fires, nearly 20 percent have burned buildings in Penobscot County. To date, Oxford County has reported the fewest with only one working structure fire that required a state investigator. And, according to statistics from the Fire Marshall’s Office, 29 of the fires through the end of March have been classified as Arson.
When asked how the first quarter of this year compared with the first three months of 2015, Thomas said, “We’re right on track. It does seem to be consistent. The real issue is —we have a significant number of fires here in the state of Maine.” Thomas also said steps can be taken to reduce the number of structure fires as well as the number of fire fatalities. He said a first step for a homeowner would be installation of a residential sprinkler system. IT
Since January, fires have claimed six lives, according to Thomas. In many case, he said the fire cause can be linked to chemicals in new construction materials.
The 130 fires caused more than $5 million dollars in property damage. That’s on track to compete with last year’s total of nearly $30 million in property damaged by fire.
It should be noted, according to Thomas, the state has 15 investigators who cover the entire state – all 35,000 square miles. Travel time for those investigators accounted for more than 400 hours. In fact, time spent on actual investigations was 100 hours less than the time spent traveling to the investigations.