Wildfires contained, firefighters heading home

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LURAY, March 28 — While not all of the reports read “100% contained”, officials coordinating firefighting efforts against wildfires on both the east and west sides of the Page Valley are claiming victory, thinning personnel and turning operations back over to local agencies. Rain that fell over Tuesday night and Wednesday helped basically put a bookend on the fears the wildfires have spread across the region since March 20.

On Wednesday morning, the Virginia Department of Forestry stated that the 211 West, Shenandoah Forest and Serenity Ridge fires they were managing in Page County had “excellent progress made [Tuesday], reaching containment…” Although Thursday morning’s report did not read “100% contained.” The only fire considered not contained is the Capon fire in Rockingham County, which now has burned 2,486 acres.

The federal Gold team that is managing the fires around the national forest is also beginning to release resources and is ultimately working toward demobilization on Saturday.

Here’s a quick look at Thursday’s numbers for the national forest fires in the western Page Valley:

• 6,223 acres, 75% contained (up from 42% Tuesday) — Waites Run Fire, Hardy County, W.Va. – Firefighters will mop up and patrol today along existing containment lines.

• 2,422 acres, 95% contained (up from 75% Tuesday) — Capon/Brush Run Fire, Rockingham County, Va. – Firefighters will continue to monitor, patrol and conduct suppression repair on the fire.

• 155 acres, 100% contained (up from 75% Tuesday) — Cove Mountain Fire, Hardy County, W.Va. – This fire remains in patrol and monitor status.

The Southern Area Red Team that was managing the Rocky Branch fire turned those responsibilities back over to Shenandoah National Park late Wednesday. That fire is now listed at 1,031 acres and 80 percent contained.

On Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m., Shenandoah National Park reopened Byrds Nest 4 Shelter and all trails that were previously closed due to the wildfires. They also lifted the park-wide fire ban that prohibited all open-air fires. The closed section of Skyline Drive opened Wednesday, March 27, at 8 a.m.

Reopened trails in the national park 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.

After Wednesday morning’s rain, the Red Team stated that, “While there has been no new fire growth, more accurate mapping resulted in increased acreage.”

Virginia’s 4 p.m. Burning Law remains in effect until April 30, 2024. 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.

While wildfires calm and cool in the Page Valley, the Virginia Department of Forestry has fought and suppressed 92 wildfires in about eight days (since March 20). Those wildfires burned 12,770 acres of forestland in Virginia. On Tuesday, new fire activity occurred in Appomattox, Franklin, Henry, Grayson and Buchanan counties. Just yesterday, the forestry department suppressed two new fires which burned less than one acre in Louisa and Fauquier counties.



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