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High winds escalate a Md. strip mall fire

Saturday - 12/22/2012, 4:04pm  ET

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The fire gutted one of the stores in the strip mall in Temple Hills, Md. (WTOP/Jamie Forzato)

Jamie Forzato, wtop.com

TEMPLE HILLS, Md. - High winds and cold weather won't just make it uncomfortable outside -- those conditions can pose a fire risk.

"The wind makes a fire do things it wouldn't normally do," says Marc Bashoor, Prince George's County Fire Chief.

"Normally a fire will burn up. But when it's driven by wind, it drives the thermal column and the heat into areas that it wouldn't normally be, which creates a much quicker moving fire," he says.

The wind helped fuel a fire at a strip mall early Saturday morning in Temple Hills, Md. The flames started around 4 a.m. in one of the store units on the 3200 block of Branch Avenue near the Naylor Road Metro station.

As firefighters worked to extinguish the fire, the roof buckled near the storefront, forcing an evacuation. Firefighters battled the blaze for more than two hours before getting it under control.

It's not clear what caused the fire but no one was hurt, says Chief Bashoor.

Any fire in these conditions, even legal ones, can be dangerous, he says.

"We recommend extinguishing any fires because this wind will overtake it and take it to places we don't want it to go," Bashoor says.

"I'm just glad this fire was not someone's home and hopefully didn't ruin anyone's Christmas."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)