Brush fire in Arundel sends 4 to the hospital

Blaze cuts a 2-acre path near Old Mill schools

April 20, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A five-alarm brush fire swept near the Old Mill schools complex yesterday, sending four people to the hospital - three of whom suffered smoke inhalation in a school - before it was extinguished.

Whipped by the midday wind and fueled by dry debris, the smoky fire burned a 2-acre swath through a 4-acre patch of woods, working its way from Old Mill Road at Patriot Lane toward Crain Highway, said Anne Arundel County Fire Department Division Chief John M. Scholz.

He said it was the largest fire of its kind in the county this spring. The cause has not been determined.

The smoke caused 20 to 30 students to go to the health room at Old Mill High School, Scholz said. Most returned to their classrooms.

Two 15-year-old girls and a 40-year-old substitute teacher who reported feeling ill from the smoke were taken to North Arundel Hospital. Firefighter Richard Henry, who was suffering from exhaustion, also was taken to the hospital. Henry was treated and released, a hospital official said. No information was available about the others.

The fire was first noticed at 11:28 a.m. behind the Ruth Parker Eason Special Education Center. As it went to five alarms, units from Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties arrived. Eighty-three firefighters battled the blaze.

The fire was brought under control at 12:51 p.m., though firefighters worked through the afternoon to extinguish smoldering embers and hot spots in a ravine, woods and bramble. The fifth alarm was called in at 1:24 p.m. because many firefighters were tired.

"What is making this very difficult to fight today is the high heat and low humidity," Scholz said.

The wind blew flaming bits of tinder, igniting brush and requiring firefighters to pull hose through the woods, he said.

"Rain does a good job on getting down into the soil. But you get a sunny day and a little wind, and the top layer dries out. What you might see as leaves, we see as fuel," Scholz said.

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