An underground fire at a tree farm in northwest Baltimore County that has been burning since early Saturday has kept the county and city fire departments busy reassuring citizens that their neighborhoods are not burning.
Spokesmen for the two agencies said that since the fire off the 8700 block of Dogwood Road was reported shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday, numerous people have called to report the smell of smoke in their communities and ask where the fire is and what is burning.
The fire, at a privately owned tree farm where dead trees, trash and compost are buried under several feet of earth, was reported early Saturday and attempts to extinguish it are continuing, Woodlawn District police said.
"Even though the fire is underground," said a county police officer, "there is plenty of subsurface oxygen to keep the fire going for a few more days."
A county fire dispatcher said firefighting equipment has remained at the scene around the clock, spraying water to keep the fire from spreading.
"We've got apparatus from Essex, Rolling Road, Liberty Road, Woodlawn, Garrison, Arbutus and Dundalk out there . . . and they'll be relieved by other units during the day," the dispatcher said late last night.
While the actual size of the area that is burning is not known, the dispatcher said that fire officials at the scene believe it is as large as the area covered by Memorial Stadium.
Smoke from the fire was reported last night throughout the county and in many parts of the city, including the downtown area and northeast Baltimore.
A city fire dispatcher said the smoke is entering homes through air-conditioning vents, causing occupants to believe their residences are on fire.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, county fire officials said last night, adding that it was probably set legally to burn debris.
Police recommended that people who have respiratory problems seek temporary shelter until the fire is extinguished.