Smoke could be seen near the Pentagon this afternoon due to a brush fire.
The fire and the resulting smoke was seen in the median near the southbound I-395/Route 1 split.
Arlington County firefighters arrived on the scene and quickly extinguished the fire, but not before it scorched some dry brush in the median. Two lanes of southbound I-395 are currently blocked by the fire department activity.
Update at 4:10 p.m. — An accident with two injuries was reported in the same area at the time of the brush fire. It’s unclear if the two incidents are related.
Update at 4:50 p.m. — The scene has been cleared. All lanes are open.
Due to our area being about four inches below normal in rainfall for the year, more small fires have been sparking. Arlington County Fire Department Captain Gregg Karl said the county isn’t experiencing as many brush fires as some neighboring areas, but there have actually been a lot of mulch fires in the past few weeks.
According to Karl, most of the trouble has been with smokers trying to extinguish their cigarettes in plant boxes or areas with mulch. In many cases, the cigarettes smolder on the extremely dry, flammable material and then start a fire. Even drivers throwing cigarettes out of car windows has been causing trouble, because there’s mulch on many of the street medians in Arlington. Smokers are reminded to make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished, and to only use approved receptacles to dispose of them.
Even if we get some rain this weekend, it likely won’t be enough to alleviate the elevated fire danger.
“Unless we were to get a good, long, soaking rain, the fire danger will remain,” Karl said. “We need a persistent rain for a few days to get our levels where they need to be.”
Karl said some residents hear about red flag warnings and have questions about open burn restrictions. However, open burns of items such as yard clippings and debris are never allowed in Arlington, per the county code.
Another thing that goes hand in hand with warm weather is grilling, which can be a hazard as well. Anyone using a charcoal grill is reminded to use extra caution with the coals.
High winds are causing problems in the area. On an otherwise beautiful, sunny day, more than 1,000 Dominion customers were without power in Arlington as of 4:30 p.m.
On Dittmar Road in North Arlington, two large trees were felled by the wind, bringing down a mess of telephone poles, live power lines and communication cables. The area is expected to be without power for an extended period of time. Stretched-thin Dominion Power repair crews have yet to arrive on scene.
Elsewhere, dry conditions are combining with the high winds to present a fire danger. At least half a dozen grass, mulch and brush fires have been reported to the Arlington County Fire Department throughout the day.
Firefighters put out a small brush fire in Courthouse this afternoon. A pile of fallen leaves and branches caught fire near a power substation at the Woodbury Park apartments. The flames were quickly extinguished.
It’s not clear how the fire started, although Dominion Power was evaluating the substation following the fire.
The photo above was taken shortly after the incident, as firefighters were apparently refilling their engine with water from a hydrant.
It’s a beautiful day, and it’s only getting better as the temperature heats up into the low 80s. But along with the warm temperatures and the low, spring-time humidity, gusty winds are expected, and that could present a dangerous combination.
The National Weather Service has, believe it or not, issued a wildfire warning for the area this afternoon. Although we live in an urban area, there’s still the danger that small brush fires can pop up on days like this. Typically, those are confined to small, self-extinguishing blazes that start in highway medians or next to dry athletic fields — wide open spaces with lots of dry grass and other kindling — but it doesn’t hurt to be vigilant about where you flick your cigarette today.