A lightning strike on Harbor Island on Friday, August 9, started a fire that leveled the cabin on the island.
Brooksville Fire Chief Matt Dow said by the time crews arrived on the island, located just off Buck’s Harbor, the cabin was “gone.” The fire did spread into the woods, but crews were able to keep it from spreading further.
Crews responded from Brooklin, Deer Isle and Sedgwick. Dow said the fire departments were assisted by the Maine Forestry Service and several small boats and local fishermen.
“The only thing that saved the whole island was the rain,” said Dow of the day’s weather, which included a downpour.
Harbor Island is owned by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The conservation organization purchased the property in December of 2012 for $2.35 million. MCHT had raised $1.5 million at the time of purchase toward the cost of the island, borrowed the rest and is trying to raise funds to pay off the loan over this year.
The island had been owned by the Kurt family for more than 90 years, said MCHT Senior Project Manager Ciona Ulbrich. The camp was not occupied, though the Kurt family had been moving their belongings from the camp over the course of the summer.
Ulbrich said the fire “complicates” but doesn’t change MCHT’s goal of raising the funds to purchase the island and conserve it for public use. The complication arises if the funds are not raised; the property or portions of it will have a permanent conservation easement placed on it and sold.
“It’s an unexpected change,” said Ulbrich of the fire.
The fact that the dock and outbuilding were not damaged, and the woods of the island is “amazing,” said Ulbrich. “So many people helped, and we’re so grateful to them.”