February 20, 2011 in Nation/World

High winds fan mid-Atlantic fires

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Strong winds, mild temperatures and extremely dry conditions turned the mid-Atlantic region into a tinderbox Saturday, contributing to dozens of wildfires and a building fire in New York and even toppling the National Christmas Tree.

The fie raging through a six-story New York City apartment building proved difficult for hundreds of firefighters to get under control because of strong winds.

A fire official said at least 20 firefighters were injured while battling Saturday night’s blaze in Brooklyn. None of the injuries was life-threatening.

In Maryland, state police shut down Interstate 95 in the Laurel area Saturday afternoon after a wildfire at a mulch plant jumped into the median of the highway.

Prince George’s County firefighters were battling that blaze and several others, prompting Fire Chief Marc Bashoor to call every firefighter in the county to active duty and open the county’s emergency operations center.

In Washington, strong winds toppled the National Christmas Tree, a Colorado blue spruce that had stood on the Ellipse just south of the White House since 1978. The tree was turned into mulch Saturday afternoon. A replacement tree has been chosen and will be planted sometime in the spring.

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