Home Wildfire update for Virginia, West Virginia: Strategic firing operations to start Tuesday

Wildfire update for Virginia, West Virginia: Strategic firing operations to start Tuesday

Crystal Graham
(© Fernando Astasio Avila – Shutterstock)

A number of trails and sections of the Skyline Drive remain closed due to wildfires in Virginia and West Virginia. There is a chance of rain Tuesday night and Wednesday. However, strong wind gusts are possible after the rain.

In the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, strategic firing operations are expected to begin on Tuesday which may lead to increased smoke in the region.

Rocky Branch fire

  • 987 acres
  • 25 percent contained
  • Shenandoah National Park, Luray, Rocky Branch
  • Trail closures include: Appalachian Trail from Elkwallow to Beahms Gap, Rocky Branch, Neighbor Mountain, Jeremy Run, Hull School Trail from Skyline Drive to Thornton River Upper Trail and Thorton River Upper Trail from intersection of Hull School Trail to Skyline Drive.
  • Skyline Drive remains closed from Thornton Gap (mp 31.5) to Mathews Arm Campground (mp 22.1). Byrds Nest 4 is also closed.

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

Yesterday, firefighters looked for hotspots in Kemp Hollow and continued to secure control lines around private property. Along Skyline Drive, firefighters scouted for hazardous trees and hotspots to ensure the area was safe for firefighters and Shenandoah National Park visitors once the area reopens. They mapped the fire perimeter for a more accurate acreage.

Today, firefighters will continue mop-up along Skyline Drive and Kemp Hollow structures. Fire inside Wilderness areas will continue to be monitored, and crews will focus their efforts on removing hazardous trees along Skyline Drive and clearing fallen trees on the Appalachian Trail. Firefighters continue to improve mapping, especially on the west side of the fire.

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

Residents may see increased smoke in the Waites Run and Capon fire areas in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests starting Tuesday due to strategic firing operations to bring fires to a more manageable location within fire control lines. The operation may include helicopters, drones or firefighters on the ground.

Virginia’s 4 p.m. burning law remains in effect until April 30. It bans open-air burning before 4 p.m. if the fire is within 300 feet of the woods or dry grass which could carry fire to the woods. Burning is allowed between 4 p.m. and midnight as long as the burner takes proper precautions and attends the fire at all times.

Waterfall Mountain/Shenandoah Forest/211 West fire

Helicopters dropped approximately eight buckets of water yesterday on the fire’s north side. Today firefighters will continue to improve current lines and make progress on constructing lines to the north and south along private lands.

Waites Run fire

  • 4,361 acres
  • 42 percent contained
  • Hardy County, W.Va.

Firefighters will continue to build control lines to tie into roads on the east side of the fire. Crews will look for pockets of unburned fuels for potential strategic firing operations.

Capon/Brush Run fire

Firefighters completed dozer and hand line on the north side of the fire yesterday and will patrol and monitor the fire today. Crews also will look for pockets of unburned fuels for potential strategic firing operations.

Edith Gap/Serenity Ridge fire

  • 1,245 acres
  • 8 percent contained
  • Shenandoah and Page counties

Firefighters will patrol, monitor and mop up around the fire, especially in the area where control lines were tied into a previous hazardous fuels treatment area.

Cove Mountain fire

  • 155 acres
  • 70 percent contained
  • Hardy County, W.Va.

Firefighters will continue securing the control line on the southeast portion of the fire. Once this is complete, the fire will move into patrol and monitor status. Fire management officials have reduced the containment percentage based on information gathered from better mapping and firefighters working in the area.

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.