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Blaze sparks wildfire concerns

A Monday morning fire struck about 15 acres of woodland along Stagecoach Road.

The second major blaze in less than two weeks added to worries about wildfires as the area continues in drought conditions.

The Monday blaze threatened but did not damage homes along Ponderosa Lane. No one was injured.

McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Assistant Chief Stephen Sewell said the department was notified of the fire in the 800 block of Stagecoach Road at 10:12 a.m.

Just 12 minutes later, a fire was reported at an abandoned structure in the woods in the 1300 block of Old Washington Road. Sewell said that building had not been occupied in about 20 years. The structure was destroyed. That fire also burned less than an acre of brush.

Firefighters had not determined the cause of either fire by late Monday afternoon.

Because of a mutual aid agreement, the Warrenton and Martinez departments assisted at the Stagecoach Road fire.

The Old Washington Road fire was within the Thomson Fire Department's automatic response area. Sewell said about 15 firefighters were on hand.

The Georgia Forestry Commission assisted at both fires, Sewell said. Forestry crews using a bulldozer dug perimeters around the larger fire.

Crews stayed at the larger fire until 12:06 p.m. and at the smaller fire until 2:22 p.m.

Ponderosa Lane resident Jerry Harden inspected the ashes and scattered fires in the adjoining property after firefighters left. He said a summer storm dropped trees across the neighborhood and left burnable material on the ground. He said residents have been working to remove the fire fuel.

Bill Hopkins inspected the burned woodland for Knox Ltd. He said pockets of fire climbed high into the young trees. "If the fire climbs all the way to the tops, then the tree is usually dead," he said.

Hopkins said John Crawford of the forest service operated a bulldozer and dug ruts into the sand to keep the fire from spreading.

"It was really hot here," Hopkins said. "With the wind swirling, it got kind of scary."

The fire burned to the edge of Stagecoach Road across from the site of the annual Blind Willie McTelle Blues Festival grounds.

Hopkins said tree stumps buried in the ash and sand would continue to burn for a couple days.

Just eight days earlier, six wildfires burned 60 acres along Ridge Road near the Warren County line and about five acres near Belle Meade. Firefighters believe the fires were ignited by sparks from a faulty trailer and then spread rapidly.

Web posted on Thursday, September 22, 2011

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