Train sparks brush fires

July 31, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |

HAGERSTOWN — Firefighters responded to separate brush fires, on Sweeney Drive and Valley Mall Road, on Sunday afternoon after a Winchester and Western Railway train went through, igniting nearby brush, fire officials said.

The fire around the tracks at the end of Sweeney Drive, near Action Products in Hagerstown Business Park, consumed about half an acre and would have gotten further into a wooded area if someone hadn’t called 911 about the fire, Hagerstown Fire Capt. Adam Hopkins said.

“I’m just happy somebody saw it,” said Hopkins, standing on dry, brittle grass downhill from the tracks.
The fire off Sweeney Drive was called into 911 at 3:14 p.m. Sunday, according to Washington County Emergency Services. Train officials called in the fire off Valley Mall Road at 3:26 p.m., a 911 dispatcher said.

The fire off Sweeney Drive was spreading in both directions along the Norfolk-Southern tracks and burned grass along the tracks, as well as nearby trees, Hopkins said.

Firefighters didn’t have a tanker truck, but used about 1,000 gallons of water from the responding firetrucks to put out the fire, he said. They were getting more water from a nearby hydrant and were going to spray foam on the area to ensure the fire remained out, he said.

The wooded area goes west between Noland Drive and Wesel Boulevard.

The train, which did not stop, also sparked a brush fire on Valley Mall Road, across the street from Popeyes, said Assistant Fire Chief Steve Teagarden with Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, Md. Inc.

When trains start brush fires, it’s typically from the brakes locking up and sparks igniting grass, Teagarden said. How the train caused these fires was not known.

Also responding were Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co. and the Hagerstown fire marshal.

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