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Fires scorch woodlands in W.Va., Pa.

November 09, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - A wildfire on the Blue Ridge Mountain Tuesday night crept within 25 yards of a house but firefighters were able to knock down the blaze and prevent it from reaching the home, a firefighter said.

The blaze near the West Ridge Hills subdivision was one of two wildfires that broke out in the Tri-State area Tuesday night.

In Franklin County, firefighters were battling another large wildfire near the border with Adams County, according to an emergency dispatcher.

The fire in Jefferson County scorched an estimated 25 acres, said Robbie Nick, captain of the Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire Co. The house that was threatened by the fire is in the Blue Ridge Reserve development, Nick said.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the blaze, which was reported about 4:16 p.m. said Nick. Fire fighters did not leave the scene of the fire until about 10:18 p.m.

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One fire fighter was injured when he sprained his ankle, Nick said.

Every fire department in the county sent equipment or personnel to fight the fire, and fire departments from Loudoun County, Va., Washington County and Berkeley County, W.Va., responded to the blaze as well, said Donald Longerbeam, spokesman for the Independent Fire Co. in Ranson.

Most of the firefighters reached the fire by using Chestnut Hill Road, which turns of U.S. 340 just south of Harpers Ferry.

The size of the fire in Franklin County was not known, although 14 fire departments responded to the blaze in a wooded area.

The fire was reported about 8:30 p.m., and firefighters were still on the scene late Tuesday night.

Conditions have been dry in wooded areas, especially since most of the leaves have fallen off trees, according to emergency officials.

About 65 percent of the leaves have fallen, which allows the sun's rays to reach the ground and dry out vegetation, said Darrell Penwell, director of the Jefferson County Office of Emergency Services.

"A little breeze makes it go pretty good. Of course we are still in a semi-drought situation," said Penwell.

West Virginia was declared a disaster area last summer after rainfall totals dropped about 15 inches below normal. State farmers were expected to experience as much as $100 million in crop losses due to the dry weather.

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