- Associated Press - Sunday, February 20, 2011

WASHINGTON — Firefighters have contained several blazes in the mid-Atlantic region that forced evacuations, knocked out power and prompted an advisory for some residents to boil their water, officials said Sunday.

No deaths have been reported, though at least four firefighters were treated for minor injuries. Several homes, businesses and other structures in the Washington region were damaged.

Strong winds and dry conditions made the blazes tough to extinguish, with firefighters still working to put out some hotspots Sunday morning.

Six fires in Virginia’s Prince William County scorched about 300 acres and led officials to evacuate 60 people from homes. The worst fire was in a neighborhood where a tree had been blown over onto a power line. Some were still without power in the area, though electricity should be restored Sunday, county officials said in a press release.

Crews used so much water that water pressure fell to dangerous levels, leading officials to issue a boil-water advisory that was still in effect Sunday morning. All the fires in Prince William County were under control by Sunday.

In Maryland’s Prince George’s County, more than 600 acres burned. Interstate 95 was shut down temporarily in Laurel when a fire jumped into the highway’s median.

Officials in Virginia also shut down I-95 for a time Saturday when smoke reduced visibility.

Prince George’s fire crews still were working to completely contain two fires. One destroyed 250 acres, two homes and several other abandoned homes in Clinton. The other was at a mulch plant in Laurel, where 300 acres burned as winds pushed the flames from pile to pile of mulch.

The high winds, with gusts reaching 55 mph in some areas Saturday, posed problems across the region.

In Washington, strong winds toppled the National Christmas Tree, a Colorado blue spruce that had stood on the Ellipse just south of the White House since 1978. The tree was turned into mulch Saturday afternoon, and a replacement tree has been chosen and will be planted sometime in the spring, said Bill Line, a spokesman for the National Park Service.


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