I recently saw this disturbing snippet in the Morning Sentinel (central Maine newspaper) about how arsons plague Downeast Maine Towns, especially as spring approaches:
Firefighters in three Down East Maine communities say they’re warily gearing up for spring and what they fear will be a resurgence of arson fires.
Officials say that over the past two years nearly 100 arson fires have struck the Perry, Pembroke and Robbinston area, burning vacant homes, barns and fields.
Perry Fire Chief Paula Frost says the departments are getting ready because as soon as the snow melts “they’ll be burning stuff up.” She says “everybody is on edge.”
Sgt. Tim York of the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office tells the Bangor Daily News two investigators have been assigned to the area. He’s hoping that area residents who might have information will help investigators find the people responsible.
Unfortunately, these arsons are a reflection of the underlying socio-economic problems that are present in Downeast Maine. The chart below shows that population in Washington County, Maine (the area usually referred to as Downeast Maine) has declined by 6 percent between 2000 and 2010–to 31,932 in 2010 from 33,863 in 2000.
Additionally, what the chart does not show is that the remaining population is aging rapidly. So the population is smaller and less mobile in a county that is half as large as Connecticut (though the population in Connecticut is over 3.5 million). The population of Washington County would be a rounding error in Connecticut.
In the end, this means fewer eyeballs are around to watch over the growing inventory of vacant homes and farms. This is fertile ground for trouble-makers and squatters. Alas, every time an arsonist strikes, we all lose an irreplaceable piece of Northern New England history and architectural heritage.