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Update: Rocky Mount Fire Grows to Over 2,300 Acres

Posted: Updated: Apr 20, 2016 01:08 PM
Wildfire via Rebecca Hutton Campbell Wildfire via Rebecca Hutton Campbell
Wildfire via Rebecca Hutton Campbell Wildfire via Rebecca Hutton Campbell

Shenandoah National Park is closing more trails as a wild fire continues to scorch hundreds of acres.

The National Park Service says the Rocky Mount fire in Shenandoah National Park has grown to more than 2,300 acres. At present a hundred firefighters are working to contain it.

"We are stationing people around the fire and putting in containment lines, the Virginia Department of Forestry is putting in dozen lines in various places around the fire, and we're just trying to hold it in the park. We won't let it get out of the park," said Sally Hulbert of Shenandoah National Park.

The haze from the wild fire can be seen in parts of central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Due to all the smoke in the air, authorities ask you to only call 911 if you are sure there is a brush fire nearby.

The fire has prompted authorities to close Skyline Drive from Swift Run Gap to Loft Mountain along with the Appalachian and nearly a dozen additional trails.

Shenandoah National Park has closed the following trails because of the fire:

  • Brown Mountain Trail
  • Big Run Portal Trail
  • Rocky Mountain Run Trail
  • Rockytop Trail
  • Big Run Loop
  • Austin Mountain Trail
  • Lewis Peak Trail
  • Patterson Ridge Trail
  • Madison Run Spur
  • Madison Run Fire Road
  • Skyline Drive from Swift Run (mile 65) to Loft Mountain (mile 79)
  • Appalachian Trail from Ivy Creek (mile 77) north to Simmons Gap (mile 73)
  • Rocky Mount Trail
  • Gap Run Trail
  • Onemile Run Trail

Press Release from the Virginia Department of Forestry 4/19/2016: 

Virginia Department of Forestry wildland firefighters from eastern and central Virginia are being detailed to far SW Virginia this week to help battle a number of blazes burning in Buchanan, Dickinson, Lee, Wise and Scott counties, according to John Miller, director of resource protection.  And more VDOF resources will be added to the suppression effort on the wildfire in Shenandoah National Park to protect lives and private property on the Park’s boundary.

“We are nearing the end of spring wildfire season in Virginia, but the number and size of several wildland fires in far southwest Virginia are presenting a challenge,” Miller said.  “We’re moving some resources from our Central and Eastern Regions to augment the folks in our Western Region who have been fighting a number of large wildfires, several of which appear to be the result of arson.”

Eighteen VDOF employees drove out to Buchanan County to help with suppression and support efforts.  They will be deployed until the threat subsides.  One fire in Buchanan County is burning behind Hurley High School, so the school is closed today.

Woods arson is a crime, and officials with the VDOF are offering up to a $2,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person or people responsible for starting these wildfires.  If you have any information that will help bring the arsonist/arsonists to justice, please call the anonymous Arson Tip Line at 1.434.220.9053.

(NOTE: Western Regional Forester Ed Stoots is available for interviews/additional questions regarding the ongoing wildfire situation in SW Virginia.  You may reach him in the Salem office at 540 387-5461 or by cell at 540-492-0152.)

Miller reminds everyone that the state’s 4PM Burning Law remains in effect through April 30th.

“Please don’t burn trash or yard debris before 4 p.m.,” Miller said.  “If the temperatures are high, the winds are up and the humidity levels are down, we strongly recommend you not burn even after 4 p.m. on those kinds of days as the fire will likely escape your control.”

In Shenandoah National Park, the Rocky Mount fire has grown to more than 2,000 acres.  Additional federal wildland firefighters are joining the effort inside the Park borders, and more VDOF wildland firefighters are being added to protect the people and their property on the surrounding private lands.

People living up to 150 miles southeast of the fire have been seeing and smelling the smoke.  This evening, the wind direction will change and push the smoke southwest of the fire.  Winds are expected to shift again Wednesday afternoon, and the smoke will be pushed northwest of the wildfire.

“If you haven’t yet smelled the smoke from the Rocky Mount fire in the Park, it’s highly likely you will within the next 36 hours,” Miller said.  “Please call 911 only if there is a fire close by and do not if you are smelling smoke from the wildfire in Shenandoah National Park.  This will ensure our firefighters are available to protect you and your neighbors if an actual wildfire were to break out near you.” 

Shenandoah National Park Press Release 4/19/2016:

Luray, Virginia: The Rocky Mtn Fire in the south district of Shenandoah National Park has grown to approximately 2,094 acres. Firefighters are actively working along the park boundary and Skyline Drive. The fire on Rocky Mount, was reported to the park at approximately 1:00 p.m. on April 16, 2016. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Due to the fire and to ensure visitor safety, Skyline Drive is closed from Swift Run Gap (mile 65, Skyline Drive) south to Loft Mountain (mile 79). The following trails closures are in effect until further notice: the Appalachian Trail from Simmons Gap (mile 73) south to Ivy Creek Overlook (mile 77), the Rocky Mount Trail, the Gap Run Trail, and the Onemile Trail. The Pinefield Hut (mile 75) is closed.

Currently 100 personnel are working to contain the fire. Resources assigned to the fire include personnel from the National Park Service, Virginia Department of Forestry, USDA Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Forestry Commission and Department of Forestry Pueblo County . Additional firefighters and equipment are en route. The park and Skyline Drive remain open along with all major highways and visitor facilities in the park and adjacent communities.

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