Dry weather cited in brush fires


Dry conditions and 70-degree temperatures contributed to approximately 10 brush fires in Washington County on Wednesday.

At least 19 fires have erupted in the county since Tuesday morning.

Sparks from a train started three brush fires along railroad tracks Wednesday morning, said Williamsport Fire Chief William Ball.

Ball said recent dry weather made the brush near the tracks particularly flammable.

"All it takes is a few sparks," he said.

Williamsport firefighters were called to the 15800 block of Danmar Lane to fight a small brush fire along the tracks at 9:38 a.m. It took firefighters 40 minutes to put out the fire that burned one acre of land.

While there, they were notified of a small brush fire about a mile away along the tracks near Governor Lane Boulevard on property owned by Certain-Teed Products.


About a quarter of an acre burned in that fire, which took fighters about 10 minutes to douse.

At 7:30 p.m. firefighters were called to the railroad tracks behind Maryland Metals, Steel Products Division, on Mitchell Avenue for another brush fire.

Ball said the tracks were closed to trains while the fires were being fought.

He said such fires are to be expected at this time of year.

"The only way to prevent them is to make the public aware of the dangers of careless burning," he said.

Clear Spring firefighters were called to battle small brush fires in the 11200 block of Big Pool Road at 9:44 a.m. and behind Roland's Excavation on National Pike at 3 p.m.

Both fires caused minimal damage and were put out in minutes.

A minor mulch fire at the Food Lion in Halfway kept firefighters busy for about 10 minutes at around 12:23 p.m.

They were later called to Kaufman Avenue for a grass fire in an alley, said Alan Matheny, Halfway Fire Department public information officer.

"It took about a minute to put it out. We're not sure how it started," he said.

The fire damaged an area about 50 feet long and a foot wide, he said.

Around that same time, they responded to another mulch fire, this one at Wendy's restaurant on Wesel Boulevard.

Halfway firefighters have responded to mulch fires at the restaurant three times within the past two days, he said.

Matheny said he expects more of the same for the next few months.

"It's been a dry winter. The ground's not saturated," he said.

Matheny said smokers should be careful about disposing of cigarettes and people burning debris should abide by Maryland Department of Natural Resources guidelines.

Other minor brush fires in Washington County were on Penmar Avenue and Memory Lane, dispatchers with Washington County Emergency Services said.

The spring and fall of the year are when most brush fires occur, said Ric Lilliard of the DNR western region fire center.

With leaves off the trees, the sun preheats dry leaves on the ground, making them easy to ignite, he said.

Most of the fires are caused by people burning leaves and brush, he said.

"It's better to wait until the evening to burn, when there's low temperatures, it's humid and there's no wind," he said.

In 1997, 22 brush fires burned 23.3 acres of land in Washington County. In 1998, 74 fires burned 308.3 acres, said Lilliard.

In Frederick County, 14 fires burned 17.2 acres in 1997, and in 1998, 43 fires scorched 34.1 acres, he said.

Western Franklin County, Pa., in 1997 had two brush fires which burned less than an acre, compared to seven fires in 1998 that burned 6 acres.

In Fulton County, Pa., 12 fires burned 13 acres in 1997, and in 1998, 13 fires burned 32 acres, said Ray Miller Buchanan (Pa.) Region forest fire supervisor.

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