Home Quaker Run Fire: Farmers, community members rally to assist firefighters

Quaker Run Fire: Farmers, community members rally to assist firefighters

Crystal Graham
blue ridge parkway smoke wildfire
Milepost 168 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, smoke from the Tuggle’s Gap fire is seen in the distance. Photo courtesy NPS.

As the Quaker Run fire inched closer to the Syria community, local farmers and residents mobilized to help fire crews.

The Quaker Run Fire, currently the largest wildfire in Virginia, has burned nearly 4,000 acres. At this time, it is 41 percent contained, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry.

“We were lucky not to have any agricultural damage,” said Brad Jarvis, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Madison County.

However, Jarvis said, the fire did threaten some nearby homes in Syria, as well as Graves Mountain Farm & Lodges.

Crews and volunteers rallied to install large containment lines to keep the fire away from the community.

“We had a lot of people volunteering – many of them farmers and bear hunters,” said Clay Jackson, chairman of the Madison County Board of Supervisors and vice president of Madison County Farm Bureau. “We were up there every day putting in fire lines, using leaf blowers, cutting trees and snags, just trying to keep it away.”

Many volunteers also distributed water and meals to crews working around the clock to keep the fire at bay.

“It was probably about 100 yards above our motel,” said Lucky Graves, who runs Graves Mountain Farm & Lodges with his family and serves as Madison County Farm Bureau president. “When it got close, we back-burned from our line back up to the fire” to consume the fuel in the fire’s path and stop its trajectory.

Fortunately, the fire didn’t reach the structure or any of the farm’s orchards or crops, but it did have some impact on the business’ agritourism operations.

“A couple of our cabins were right next to the mountain where the fire was,” Graves said. “We had a few cancellations, but not as many as I expected.”

Smoke in the area also “was heavier on certain days, and it was hard to get things done outside – eyes burning, a little bit harder to breathe,” Jarvis said. “It would come and go.”

While Madison County received some light rain last Friday that helped with the fire, the county and several other localities are experiencing significant drought and rainfall deficits.

Crews continue the battle the Quaker Run fire, which is one of several active wildfires in the state. Virginia’s wildfire season runs Oct. 15-Nov. 30, and the VDOF reports that more than 9,400 acres have been burned from wildfires so far.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency in Madison County, as well as in Patrick County for the Tuggle Gap fire, to employ additional resources needed to combat the blazes.


Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.