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Indian Springs fire burns six vacant buildings, 20 acres

September 11, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS
  • A Maryland State Police helicopter lands on U.S. 40 at Pectonville Road in Indian Springs Saturday to give Clear Spring Fire Chief Michael Reid an aerial view of a fire which authorities said burned six vacant buildings and about 20 acres of orchard and forest land.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

INDIAN SPRINGS -- Two homes were evacuated Saturday night as firefighters worked to contain a wildfire that burned more than 20 acres of orchard and forest land near Indian Springs, emergency officials said.

The fire, reported about 6 p.m. in the area of Parkhead Road, consumed about six vacant buildings associated with the orchard, which no longer is in operation, said Mike Reid, chief of the Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Dept.

Fire officials were concerned the fire might spread west to occupied homes on Corner Road, near the back of the orchard land, said Kevin L. Lewis, Washington County's director of emergency services.

More than 80 firefighters from three states responded to the fire, Lewis said.

By about 9 p.m., firefighters from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service had established a perimeter around the fire and planned to allow it to burn within that area overnight until firefighting efforts could resume in the morning, Lewis said.

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Emergency officials were hoping that rain predicted to begin around 3 a.m. would help extinguish the fire, he said.

The two homes on Corner Road were the only ones that presented an immediate concern, Lewis said.

Nicole Paylor, who lives in one of those homes, said she was able to get to her house to get her black lab dog out and pack some belongings.

"I never thought I'd have to pick what I wanted from my house," Paylor said as she and her 3-year-old daughter waited with their car near the firefighters' command post.

Another nearby property owner on the scene was Glenn Pete Younker, who said he owns about 127 acres of woods next to the burning property.

"I hope it doesn't get over near those woods because, as dry as it is, it's gone," Younker said.

Younker estimated the orchard had not been in operation for about 10 years.

Fighting the fire was difficult due to the wooded, mountainous terrain, firefighters said. They used small, off-road brush units where possible and went on foot in other areas, Lewis said. Bulldozers also were used to help create fire breaks, he said.

"We've got a lot of units up in there and we're afraid we're not going to be able to get them back out if the structures collapse on the road behind them," a Clear Spring firefighter said early in the firefighting operation.

Officials used a Maryland State Police helicopter to get an aerial overview of the fire and its spread, Lewis said. After an initial survey of the area, the helicopter landed on U.S. 40, near the site of a command post, and Reid climbed aboard to survey the area himself.

Equipment from at least six fire companies and the Washington County Special Operations Team parked at the command area at the intersection of Pecktonville and Parkhead roads, near where U.S. 40 joins Interstate 70 westbound.

Fire officials were not allowing private vehicles to enter Parkhead or Pecktonville roads.

The cause of the fire was unknown, Lewis said Saturday night. Forestry officials will investigate the cause, he said.

Dry weather no doubt contributed to the spread of the fire, Lewis said.

"We've been very lucky so far," he said. "This is the largest fire so far since the dry weather."

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