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Marsh fire in suburban Cleveland contained

Residents use hoses, leaf blowers as flames near homes

A brush fire burns near homes in Mentor, Ohio, on Monday.
A brush fire burns near homes in Mentor, Ohio, on Monday.

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A brush fire rages through a salt marsh in the Cleveland, Ohio, suburb of Mentor, sending a thick black cloud hundreds of feet into the air (April 28)
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MENTOR, Ohio (CNN) -- More than 100 firefighters Monday battled a brush fire that swept through a salt marsh in this Cleveland suburb, and contained it before it reached nearby homes.

Authorities said the fire, which sent a thick black cloud hundreds of feet into the air, was one of the most spectacular in the marsh in about a decade.

"It's contained," said dispatcher Michele Earney late Monday night. "They're just checking for hot spots."

No injuries were reported.

"It's a beautiful place to live until it's on fire. Then, it's pretty demanding on us," said Mentor Fire Chief Rich Harvey. "If you were standing here when the flames were 50 feet in the air and they were coming to the road where the firefighters were making their stand, that's pretty dramatic."

The blaze began around 2:20 p.m. and charred an estimated 200 acres of a tall shoreline weed that contains an oily hydrocarbon, producing the thick black smoke that shrouded the area.

Fire crews from more than two dozen fire stations ringed the outer edge of the fire to douse flames as they approached homes. Some residents used garden hoses and leaf blowers to try to protect houses. Others gathered belongings and evacuated.

start quoteIt's a beautiful place to live until it's on fire. Then, it's pretty demanding on us.end quote
-- Rich Harvey, Mentor fire chief

At one point, school buses were not allowed to reach an elementary school because the vehicles could not pass on a road where the blaze raged. A couple hours later, the children were picked up.

Firefighters stayed on the outer edge of the marsh because "it's very dangerous to get out in there," said Harvey. "There's no way of walking out into it. The marsh is two feet of muck," he said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

Harvey said three or four fires in the area this year were started by teenagers, but it was too early to say if that's what happened in this case.

Mentor is a town of 50,000 people about 20 miles northeast of Cleveland on Lake Erie.

Mentor Marsh was once a freshwater marsh, but salt from salt wells and salt mines during the 1950s contaminated it over the years, changing its ecosystem. This resulted in the saline-tolerant reed grass, called phragmites, proliferating there. It was that reed grass which burned Monday.

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