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Red Flag brush fire put out on rail line

A brush fire along a rail line in the Town of Tonawanda spared the CSX tracks Monday afternoon, and other brush fires struck parts of McKeon County, Pa., during what the National Weather Service called a Red Flag Warning period for such blazes.

Railroad crews replacing tracks near Sheridan Drive and Kenmore Avenue in Tonawanda set off sparks that ignited dry vegetation shortly before 3 p.m., said Randy Rider, second assistant chief with the Sheridan Park Fire Department. The fire ignited behind the FedEx building, he said.

It took 25 firefighters from Sheridan Park and other fire companies about 15 minutes to put out the blaze, which caused neither injuries nor damage to nearby buildings, Rider said.

Tom Paone, a National Weather Service meteorologist at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, said the Red Flag Warning was posted across Western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania because of high winds, very dry vegetation and low humidity.

The average wind speed Monday was 17 mph, with gusts of up to 44 mph, Paone said. That, coupled with the lack of much rain in recent weeks, set up what is an uncommon warning in the region, he said.

When conditions are like they were Monday, he said, any kind of spark from a barbecue, discarded cigarette or construction work can ignite a brush fire.

The warning was called off at 6 p.m. Monday, Paone said, and with rains expected today, the threat should diminish.