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Shenandoah National Park Rocky Branch fire 10 percent contained; reduced visibility due to smoke

Crystal Graham

rocky branch fire SNP update Firefighters remain on the scene of the Rocky Branch fire in Shenandoah National Park today checking on hazardous trees and hot spots to ensure the area is safe. There are 59 personnel working to contain the 987-acre fire – which is at 10 percent containment at this time.

The fire started on Wednesday in Luray and Rocky Branch when high winds were present throughout much of the Shenandoah Valley. The exact cause of the fire is unknown.

Saturday’s nearly one inch of rain helped firefighter efforts to contain and control the fire. Firefighters monitored the fire in Kemp Hollow using established dozer lines along the southern edge of the fire perimeter. The Southern Area Red Complex incident management team arrived to manage the fire. Due to the fire receiving a large amount of moisture and causing hazardous conditions for firefighters, they did not engage in many areas but monitored the fire’s perimeter and were ready to respond.

The weather today is expected to be sunny and around 50 degrees. Wind from the north will increase this afternoon with gusts as high as 22 miles per hour which should help dry out the fire’s fuel and increase the likelihood of burning and falling tree branches.

Trail closures include:

  • Appalachian Trail from Elkwallow to Beahms Gap
  • Rocky Branch
  • Neighbor Mountain
  • Jeremys Run
  • Hull School Trail from Skyline Drive to Thornton River Upper Trail
  • Thornton River Upper Trail from intersection of Hull School Trail to Skyline Drive Road Closure: Skyline Drive is closed from Thornton Gap (milepost 31.5) to Mathews Arm Campground (milepost 22.1).

Please be aware that firefighters may be working along Skyline Drive, Highway 211 East and the Thornton Gap entrance. Rain and wind have weakened tree branches resulting in hanging tree limbs that are hazardous to firefighters and the public.

A complete fire ban is in place for Shenandoah National Park. No open air fires are permitted.

The forecast will increase the potential for localized smoke to push south and west along the Shenandoah Valley between Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Park. There may be reduced visibility in the immediate vicinity of the fires tonight.

Motorists may encounter reduced visibility in drainages and valleys as smoke settles in lighter winds near Luray and the Shenandoah National Park.

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.