A seven-alarm fire swept through about 40 acres of timber farmland on the southern end of Kent Island on Sunday, burning for nearly 12 hours before firefighters from across Maryland and Delaware contained the flames, according to aQueen Anne's Countyfire spokesman.
At its height, the fire forced about 25 homes to be evacuated and brought fire personnel from at least 10 agencies to the small island on the eastern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, said Chief Kevin Aftung, the spokesman for the county's all-volunteer fire department.
The fire, which stretched along Route 8 in the vicinity of Romacoke, Kent Point and Wicomico roads, continued to burn late Sunday within the perimeter established by fire personnel, and was expected to smolder through the night into Monday morning, Aftung said.
Officials first received word of the fire about 6 a.m. Sunday, Aftung said, and responded to find part of the private pine tree farm on fire.
The farm, which Aftung did not know the name of, had last been harvested for timber about seven years ago and was covered with heavy, 6-foot-tall pine trees that were "very thick and very dense and very difficult to move through," Aftung said.
"The difficulty accessing the fire was one of the biggest problems," he said.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service responded with bulldozers and cut large fire roads through the farm, Aftung said.
As the fire grew, Queen Anne's continued to call for reinforcements through the mutual aid agreements it holds with neighboring jurisdictions.
By about noon, firefighters from Anne Arundel, Caroline, Kent and Talbot counties in Maryland and from Kent County, Del., were responding, Aftung said.
Fire personnel from the Fort Meade fire department also responded, as did a helicopter from Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, Aftung said.
About 3 p.m., about 25 homes along Wicomico Road were evacuated by fire personnel after the wind shifted and the flames turned in their direction.
But firefighters began making progress knocking down the fire and it was subsequently brought under control and contained, before any homes were damaged, about 5:30 p.m., Aftung said.
Evacuees were expected to be able to return to their homes Sunday night, Aftung said.
The cause of the blaze remained unknown Sunday evening, he said.
There were calls to police about fireworks in the area Saturday night, but fire investigators have not linked the fireworks to the fire, Aftung said.
"We can't prove one started the other," he said.
Volunteer firefighters from Queen Anne's were scheduled to monitor the contained flames, which were still "smoldering and burning" at the center of the farm, through the night, Aftung said.