HOWLAND – Unpredictable wind patterns caused a grass fire to get out of control on Water Street Tuesday.

Firefighters arrived at 76 Water Street at 11:30 a.m. after a planned burn in the back yard along the river bank spread to a neighboring property and encroached upon a garage. Howland Fire Chief Josh McNally said the owner of the property, Frank Levin, did not have a permit for the fire.

“It was an honest mistake,” McNally said.

Wind gusts combined with rapidly drying, dead grass caused the fire to quickly spread out of control.

Burn permits are available for free, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, though precautions have been put in place to allow for social distancing.

“You can just call the fire station, and we can issue the permit over the phone,” McNally said. “It gives us a chance to say whether it is a good idea or bad idea for a burn that day.”

He said the department keeps the permit on file. If a Forest Ranger checks on property owner who has a planned fire, he or she can call the local fire department and verify if there is a permit on file or not.

Howland responders were able to quickly contain Tuesday’s fire before any damage was done to adjacent structures. A Maine Forest Ranger was also on scene assessing the situation.

The Howland incident was the second illegal burn to escape control within a two-hour period. Earlier, a wildlands fire was reported on Route 168 in Winn. Mattawamkeag Fire Department was able to quickly control that fire as well before any structure damage was done.

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