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Firefighters battle brush fire

POSTED: April 3, 2014 3:03 p.m.
Jim Dean/

Traffic on Atlanta Highway slows as a brush fire burns out of control Wednesday afternoon.

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FORSYTH COUNTY -- About an acre of scorched land is all that remains between two south Forsyth subdivisions after a brush fire swept through Wednesday afternoon.

The entrances to both the Stonebrooke Commons and Lexington Village subdivisions off Atlanta Highway sustained heavy damage, said Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers.

“In total, there were 47 significant ornamental trees that were damaged or destroyed and over 600 feet of fence for both neighborhoods that was damaged or destroyed, and of course numerous bushes, small ornamentals, plantings and grass areas that were damaged,” he said.

Despite the losses, Shivers said no homes were damaged and no one was injured.

“Fire never reached any homes, but it certainly was close ... that was one of our biggest concerns,” Shivers said. “The important thing was that no one was injured, with school being out right now [for spring break].

“It was very fortunate that no children were injured and no one was involved coming in and out of the neighborhoods.”

An investigator attempted to determine what started the fire Wednesday, according to Shivers. But in most cases, the cause of a brush fire is nearly impossible to determine as most of the evidence is destroyed.

“Unless someone witnessed the beginning of it, they’re extremely hard to make determinations on ... we’ll never know exactly,” he said. “It’s logical to assume it was likely a cigarette, or some sort of spark from traffic ... typically these things are cigarette butts thrown from a car, but there was nothing our investigator could find definitively.”

Shivers said it took about 30 minutes to contain the blaze after the department was called to the scene about 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Tanya Gonzalez-Kelley, who happened to be in the area, said she tried to alert neighbors to the flames.

“I started banging on their door … there was no answer, so I opened a car door, found a name and address, and got ahold of the [owner].”

About 20 fire personnel were on the scene, Shivers said, including three engine companies and three brush trucks.

He noted that the entrances to both subdivisions were damaged or destroyed, as well as a landscaped area in between them.

“There will be a heavy loss for both [homeowners associations] to deal with because those trees have significant value, especially when they’ve got age on them,” he said. “Only time will tell which trees will recover, but many of them will not.”

Reports of a second brush fire Wednesday afternoon drew fire personnel to an area of Bethelview Road, but it turned out to be a legal, controlled burn.

However, Shivers urged residents to use caution when smoking, grilling or burning something outdoors.

“Conditions like this with low humidity are extremely dangerous for outdoor fires,” he said. “The smallest of fires become uncontrollable very, very quickly.

“Please use extreme caution when grilling outside, and of course don’t throw cigarettes out of the car window.”

 

Online Editor Jim Dean contributed to this report.

 

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