Brush fires stretch firefighters around county, area

by Kate Evans

Area firefighters battled a number of brush fires over the weekend and last week amid extremely dry conditions and high winds that pummeled the region. Most of the fire incidents during the last week were brush fires, according to the Eastern Panhandle Working Fires Facebook page. Several brush fires covered a lot of acreage or endangered structures.

One of several brush fires from over the weekend. photo by Andy Stotler

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag warning on Wednesday last week for gusty winds, low humidity and warm temperatures that created the danger of critical fire conditions developing.  All outdoor burning was discouraged as fires could rapidly spread and become uncontrollable. The Red Flag warning continued as area fire companies battled brush fires last weekend.

Sunday fires

On Sunday, March 14, Morgan County and neighboring county fire companies responded to several area brush fires with locations including Sage Creek Way near Fulton Road in Hedgesville, Featherbed Lane in Hedgesville, Powerline Lane in Berkeley Springs and Running Waters Way in Great Cacapon.

The Sage Creek Way brush fire was initially two acres then spread to around 10 acres due to windy conditions. The Featherbed Lane brush fire was reported as a large fire that was spreading to a structure. Firefighters fought another brush fire in the 900 block of Maverick Trail in Sleepy Hollow, which isn’t far from Featherbed Lane.

Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company posted a Facebook appeal to the community on Sunday asking them to donate drinks and snacks for firefighters who were working hard to put out several large brush fires that day.

Area fire companies also responded to a field fire in the 4000 block of Johnson Mill Road, a large brush fire on Goller Hill Lane, a small outside fire in the 1800 block of Johnson Mill Road   and a large outside fire in the 10000 block of Cacapon Road.

Great Cacapon brush fire

Keith Shade, Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Company firefighter and board member, said that the call for the Running Waters Way brush fire came in on Sunday afternoon while several other brush fires were occurring in the county.  The fire location was out past Rockford Road in Great Cacapon in a nearby subdivision along the river.

Shade responded with another firefighter in the company’s Chevy Suburban and two other firefighters joined them on ATVs.

All their other units were at  other fires.  When they got there, the man and his son had put a good stop to the 30 foot by 40 foot fire with raking, Shade said.

When units were going to be diverted from other brush fires to assist, Shade told them that they could get the fire under control with more raking and the man’s garden hose.

Shade said the fire started from the homeowners burning things in a large tub while it was very windy.  The fire jumped from the tub into the woods and leaves in their yard.

They had all units out that day from Berkeley Springs, Great Cacapon, South Morgan, Paw Paw, Hancock and Hedgesville fighting brush fires, Shade said.

First Featherbed Lane fire

Early last week Morgan County fire companies and units from Berkeley, Washington and Jefferson Counties battled a major outside fire on the other end of Featherbed Lane.  The fire kept spreading and jumped the fire line with command requesting all available manpower from Morgan and Berkeley Counties.

About eight acres were on fire. The area wasn’t evacuated, but two individuals were evaluated for smoke inhalation, according to a post by Hedgesville Volunteer Fire Company.

Fire officials reported that the fire had started from a  controlled burn that was done outside of required times in fire season. The fire later rekindled as a small brush fire when a tree within the fire line caught fire.

Structure fire

Paw Paw and Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Companies were joined by units from Hampshire, Allegany and Frederick Counties County to fight a structure fire on Bethel Road in Paw Paw.

A small brush fire also occurred on Paw Paw Road that involved a 15 foot by 30 foot area-around half an acre-that was 30 feet from a structure.

Other fire calls that Morgan County Fire Companies handled over the past week included a flue fires, an electrical fire, a chimney fire, residential and commercial fire alarms and mutual aid to Allegany County and Fulton County for  brush fires.

Don’t burn when it’s windy

Great Cacapon firefighter Keith Shade advised residents not to be burning outside when it’s windy and reminded everyone that it’s fire season now.

Outdoor burning can only take place from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. during forest fire season in West Virginia, which runs March 1 through May 31 and also October 1 through December 31.        Outdoor burn bans may be declared if dry conditions that increase the threat of wildfires persist. The fire must be completely extinguished by 7 a.m.

Outdoor burning tips

Call Morgan County 911 Dispatch at 304-258-0305 to tell them the location of your outdoor burn before you begin burning.    Call 911 immediately if the fire escapes the burn area.    Never do any outdoor burning if it’s windy or very dry.

Burn only vegetation, brush and yard debris such as leaves, branches and yard clippings.  Stay with the fire at all times until it’s completely out.