As spring arrives, so does the possibilityof brush fires, firefighters caution

Several days ago, a farmer burned a large pile of debris at his Darnestown, Md. farm, and he thought it had been safely extinguished. But on Thursday, as he used a front-end loader to move the ash pile, wind reignited the embers, which torched a thicket of brush, a tree , and sparked a small brushfire,

Montgomery County firefighters responded to more than a dozen brush fires Thursday, said Pete Piringer, a Montgomery County fire department spokesman. Earlier in the week, firefighters battled a blaze that scorched about an acre of land in the Clarksburg area. Firefighters dispatched all of the small fires quickly, and no one was injured.

As spring arrives and revives plant life across the region, the threat of brush fires rises as well, amid the dead grass and fallen twigs left behind by winter. Even though rain and snow has saturated the ground in recent weeks, the season also brings blustery days that can fuel the fires, officials said.

The fires are often started by discarded cigarettes, and sometimes by smoking motorists driving past fields.

“Don’t flick it out the window,” Piringer cautioned.

Officials urge residents to keep an open eye for signs of smoke in grassy patches and mulch piles.

“If you see a smoldering patch, pay attention to it and let us know,” Piringer said.

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Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.

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