Fire crews scramble to stop brush fires
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Apr 15, 2014, 13:42
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Firefighters from Fort Lee try to get an all-terrain vehicle unstuck after it wouldn’t shift gears Friday afternoon in the scorched woods behind the Bailey Ridge apartments near Interstate 295 in Prince George.
PRINCE GEORGE — A series of brush fires swept through an area of Jefferson Park near Interstate 295 on Friday, leaving fire crews scrambling to contain them.
The wind blowing northeast carried the flames along the banks of Bailey Creek and the fire came close to threatening homes along Snow Creek Court on the eastern side of I-295.
Karin Blankenship, the first on the street to notice the fire around 2:55 p.m., was awakened by the smell as she slept with the windows open.
“Something didn’t smell right,” she said. She looked outside to see smoke and flames streaking through the woods behind her backyard.
Neighbor Jack Andrews said he could hear the popping and crack of the fire and went outside. “I could see the flames when I walked out the door,” he said.
The fire came right up to the edge of the backyard where the grass started.
Andrews ran and grabbed a hose to keep it from reaching an underground gas tank. The ground was scorched only about eight feet from the top of the tank.
Prince George firefighters hose down hot spots Friday afternoon behind Snow Creek Court in Prince George.
He said if fire had gotten to that tank, it could have exploded and destroyed nearby homes.
Prince George County firefighters worked their way through the burned woods to put out hot spots. All-terrain vehicles and specialized Jeep Wranglers were on hand as well.
On the western side of I-295, Fort Lee fire crews were on scene to help Prince George firefighters. They had a bright red Humvee and a couple all-terrain vehicles in use behind the Bailey’s Ridge and Jefferson Pointe apartments.
They struggled to pull one of the ATVs out of a trail with a winch after it broke down and couldn’t shift gears.
The fire stayed several hundred feet from the apartments.
All available units from Prince George went out to attack the fire and they had support from Fort Lee, Hopewell and Petersburg.
Donald Hunter, deputy emergency management coordinator with Prince George, said there were numerous fires along I-295 but they were of unknown origin.
Traffic continued along I-295 despite emergency crews along side the highway and some smoke.
Hunter said it would have only taken “a couple of sparks” to start the fires given the ideal conditions for fires. He said the combination of wind and dry conditions make it very dangerous.
Prince George firefighters work in the area behind Snow Creek Court in Prince George.
Virginia’s burn ban is in effect because of the conditions that exist this time of year.
“Each late winter and early spring, downed trees, branches and leaves become ‘forest fuels’ that increase the danger of a forest fire,” said John Miller, director of resource protection at the Virginia Department of Forestry, in a news release.
The Commonwealth’s 4 p.m. Burning Law runs from Feb. 15 through April 30. The law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day if the fire is within 300 feet of, woods, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.