Wind-Fueled Fires Scorch Region

The fires spread by Saturday's high winds continue to burn in some pockets around the region Sunday.  Over a thousand acres caught fire in over a hundred separate incidents.

The mulch plant that caught fire yesterday in Laurel, Md. continued to burn on Sunday.  The plant contained over 100 piles of mulch, each 30-feet high.  The smoke from the blaze brought visibility on Route 95 down to zero on Saturday afternoon, and traffic was diverted for several hours.  A hundreds of fire personnel from multiple companies were on the scene.  The fire got so hot that water hose lines were catching fire.

"It is safe to say that Saturday, February 19, 2011, will be remembered as one of the busiest days in our history," said Prince George's County fire spokesperson Mark Brady.

Brush fires flared in the Occoquan Forest area in Virginia.  One unoccupied house was destroyed.  Dominion Power was working on Sunday to restore power, which many residents lost during the fires.  Despite the proliferation of blazes, no injuries were reported.

In Clinton, Md., two dozen homes were damaged by brush fires.  Residents used buckets and water hoses to keep the fires from creeping across backyards.

In Dale City, a homeless man was charged with starting a trash fire that blazed out of control.  The interstate there was shut down on Saturday afternoon while responders struggled to contain brush fires.

High winds toppled many trees around the region, obstructing road ways and causing property damage.  Among the felled trees was the National Christmas Tree, which has stood in the Ellipse behind the White House since 1978.  Nobody was injured when the trunk of the 42-foot tree split.  Crews have already removed and mulched the Colorado blue spruce, and the National Park Service said they have identified a replacement.

Pepco reported wide-spread outages across the region, due to power lines brought down by the wind.  The power company said the most outages took place on noon Saturday, when 12,000 customers were without power.  Additional work crews from neighboring states have been brought into the region to help restore power.

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