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Fire halted at edge of data center

South Boston News
Firefighters battled the crackle of bamboo that exploded amid the heat of the blaze.
SoVaNow.com / April 16, 2014
Local firefighters were able to contain an early afternoon blaze on Gayle’s Drive near Clarksville Saturday just before the flames reached a fence surrounding the Hewlett Packard data center complex on Burlington Road. A nearby trailer was also saved.

A local resident was burning leaves and other debris when the fire “got away from him,” said Clarksville Fire Chief Johnny Shriver. The flames quickly consumed a stand of bamboo and cedars before jumping the railroad tracks and spreading toward the HP facility.

The tracks never burned, but nearby piles of old, railroad ties fueled the fire along with tufts of dried broom sedge.

Three local fire departments were called in to battle the blaze, which covered nearly three acres and destroyed at least two telephone poles before it was suppressed.

Among those responding were members of the Clarksville, Boydton and Chase City Volunteer Fire Departments and the Virginia Department of Forestry.

No one was hurt during the three hours that firefighters spent containing and then mopping up after the blaze. However, one firefighter suffered exposure to the heat, but was not hospitalized.

Officials with the Forestry Department used a bulldozer to create a fire line to stop the spread of the fire. Neal Oberholtzer, the local forester, would not name the person responsible for starting the fire, but said he was issued a summons by the Forestry Department for burning before 4:00 p.m.

If convicted of violating the ban, the individual faces a fine of up to $500 and will have to reimburse the Forestry Department for its costs to suppress the fire.

Oberholtzer said fires like the one in Clarksville on Saturday are the reason for the ban on burning: “In the middle of the day, the winds are higher and the humidity goes down increasing the likelihood that a fire will spread out of control.”

A team from Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative were called in after the blaze to assess the damage to the electrical poles and replace the burnt electric wires.

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