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Homeowners Return After Smoky, Brush Fire Forces 50 To Evacuate Kent Island

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STEVENSVILLE, Md. (WJZ)— More than 50 people left their homes in a hurry as that brush fire burned for 12 hours. The flames are contained but crews are still watching for hot spots.

Derek Valcourt has been following the massive emergency response.

Dozens of homeowners spent a tense night on the Eastern Shore after a massive brush fire threatened their homes and forced their evacuation. In some cases, that fire came just feet away from their houses. It took hundreds of firefighters and forestry workers to get it under control.

Forestry workers intentionally burned what’s left of the underbrush in those 48 acres of woods in the southern area of Kent Island, where a six-alarm fire raged on Sunday.

Neighbors along nearby Wicomico Road woke to the smell of smoke coming from the woods. By afternoon, officials mandated an evacuation.

“They said, `Fire! Get out, take what you need’ and you don’t really even have time to think. You just grab what you can and go,” said evacuated homeowner Wendy Canter.

The flames raged out of control for hours as firefighters developed a plan to stop the fire from spreading. Almost all of these 48 acres are part of a pine tree farm and part of the problem for firefighters was how dense the woods are. They literally had to bulldoze to clear out pathways so they could access the fire.

By Sunday evening, the fire had been contained to an area inside the plow lines. But the thick smoke filling the neighborhood still posed a health risk so residents were not allowed to return home until early Monday. Many came back at the crack of dawn.

“We probably shouldn’t have because the smoke was so thick, it actually burned your chest,” said Daniel Abel. “I couldn’t stay away any longer; I wanted to see if my house was still here.”

“We’re lucky not to lose houses,” said Chip Broadwater, Forestry Service.

Firefighters and forestry workers all it one of the biggest blazes on the Eastern Shore in years. Though it’s under control, it’s still burning.

“And it’s going to be until we get sufficient rain or it burns out on its own,” Broadwater said.

Residents are glad their homes were spared and grateful to the firefighters who saved them.

“They did their job and they did it really well,” Canter said.

Some residents in the area reported hearing fireworks Saturday night. Officials are investigating whether that started the fire.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.  No civilians were injured.

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