UPDATED (new video added): High winds slam MD, DC & VA. Prince George's County hit hard with numerous large fires damaging structures. Mutual aid from as far away as Baltimore City & Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Photo by The Washington Post’s Sarah L. Voisin of the fire in the Beltsville – Laurel area. Click the image for more photos.      

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Since early this morning the area around your Nation’s Capital has been hit hard with winds, sparking numerous brush fires and threatening and burning some homes. Fires are still burning. We will add info to this entry over the next couple of hours. In the meantime you can listen live to some of the area departments.       

The winds toppled the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington, DC.      

Prince George’s County ordered the call back of career personnel to handle the numerous large fires. Two of the largest fires are at opposite ends of the county. One is in the Beltsville area along the 5400 block of Van Dusen Road. It forced the shut down of part of the adjacent I-95. Another fire still burning out of control along Piscataway Road. It has required mutual aid from Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria in Virginia. Maryland units are assisting PGFD from as far away as Baltimore City and Caroline and Queen Anne’s Counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (about 65 miles)..      

The fires moved so fast that a brush unit from Baden VFD was burned and a pumper from Belstville had to be quickly moved.      

North of the Washington area, Baltimore County has been dealing with a number of multi-alarm building fires since last night, plus numerous brush fires today.      

      

I-95 was also closed for a while in the Dale City area of Prince William County due to a fire near the rest stop. See the picture above.      

       

The morning started in Prince George’s County with a hint as to what was to come with the fire above (video provided by Firefighter Close Calls) at 8400 Potomac Avenue in the College Park area. Here is info from PGFD’s Mark Brady:      

Firefighters were alerted around 6:00 am, Saturday, February 19, 2011, to a house fire in the 8400 block of Potomac Avenue.  Upon arrival firefighters were met with a challenging scene involving a 2-story wood frame home fully involved with fire, rapid wind driven extension to homes on either side, two sheds on fire in back yards and a natural gas fire on the exterior of one of the neighbors houses.       

With high winds and rapid extension with additional structures in imminent danger; the Incident Commander requested a Second Alarm, bringing additional firefighters and resources to the scene.       

It required nearly an hour for the bulk of the fire to be extinguished and another 2 hours to completely extinguish the fire in the house of origin.  Firefighters kept the exterior natural gas fire in check and were able to extinguish that fire after Washington Gas Company workers shut off the natural gas main at about 8:30 am.      

      

Late morning, at the far south end of Prince George’s County, a brush fire was reported near the Chalk Point Power Plant. I believe this is the fire that damaged Baden’s BR 36, a 1964 Ford.       

Not too long after that, a fire that has required a lot of resources through the day was reported in the Beltsville area along the 5400 block of Van Dusen Road. This is the fire just west of I-95. It caused major traffic problems along the highway. The video above is some of the smoke from that fire that I shot while in the area this afternoon. Below are details from Brady released at 1:49 PM:      

The largest incident involves about 100 acres of 30 foot high piles of mulch. The brush fire has extended about 2 miles over to Interstate 95. This fire has been burning since 12 noon and is still considered out of control.      

      

In the video above a driver shows conditions on I-95 South near the Beltsville fire. The most interesting part is around 7:20 as Foam Unit 812 from College Park responds to a fire in the median strip of the highway.      

Brady also announced a cancellation because of the fire. The event was to be hold where the initial staging area was located:      

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department has been forced to require the cancellation of the charity ice hockey event at the Ice House on Old Gunpowder Road.      

This event was a game between Washington Capitals Alumni and public safety officers.      

  

Also on the north end PGFD had a fire at Laurel Mall (short clip above). Brady reports during the 2:00 PM hour, “firefighters arrived at the Burlington Coat Factory, 14700 Baltimore Avenue, with a fire that appears to have started in a dumpster outside the building. The high winds blew the fire into the loading docks and inside the building.”      

      

The picture above, courtesy of Firefighter Close Calls, is from a fire on Decatur Street and shows what PGFD and other departments have been dealing with today.      

The other major fire tapping the region’s resources is along Piscataway Road between Clinton and Fort Washington. That battle began when a battalion chief rolled up on a couple of old structures burning on Gallahan Road. Here is Brady’s report at 4:46 PM:       

A brush fire that appears to have started at a farm on Gallahan Road spread quickly driven by high winds. The fire damaged as many as 20 structures that include homes (some abandoned), sheds and barns. This incident escalated quickly to a third alarm with about 30 pieces of fire apparatus on location with about 120 firefighters working to extinguish the fires.      

Damage to occupied homes are minor to moderate. No civilian or firefighter injuries have been reported.      

Command post is set up at Piscataway Road and Windbrook Drive.      

Below are news reports from around the region on the fires and high winds from WJLA-TV:       

      

      

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