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18 states helping fight Mon Forest fire

November 15, 2013
By Chad Clem - Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

PETERSBURG - Personnel and resources from about 18 states are helping fight the wild fire burning in the Monongahela National Forest, which raged for the fifth consecutive day Thursday.

Officials said that after a productive day by firefighting crews Wednesday, particularly on the southern edge of the fire, the blaze had not spread any further and remained at 20 percent containment as of Thursday.

The fire spans across 1,400 acres, or about two square miles of forest land and nearby private land. The cause remains under

investigation.

On Thursday, more than 150 people worked together to battle what the U.S. Forest Service is now calling the Smoke Hole Fire.

"Our crews are on the fire establishing and improving both direct and indirect fireline, factoring in the steep terrain, dry conditions, and variable winds." said Operations Chief Pete Irvine.

Crews are removing vegetation, leaf litter and trees that fall across the fireline, officials said in a Forest Sevice press release. Bulldozers have cleared older roads to use as fire breaks, while a helicopter is dropping water on the blaze as needed.

"Having the helicopter is a really safe and effective way to put the fire out in rough terrain," Cheat-Potomac District Ranger Troy Waskey said. "All of us are working toward the same goal of completely suppressing this fire as aggressively and safely as

possible."

With Thursday's temperatures being in the 50s with unseasonably low humidity, and conditions expected to grow warmer over the coming days, crews may find some additional challenges in conquering the blaze, said Robert Beanblossom, public information officer with the Monongahela National Forest.

"It's going to be a test for crews holding the fire lines," he said. "But all of the personnel are remaining ever-vigilant."

A press release from Monongahela National Forest officials said "continuing suppression activities" may cause more smoke in the area. There are reports of flames ranging up to 20 feet in size, according to the release.

This is a long-duration fire and a containment date is not predicted at this time, officials said.

"Crews are sticking with this until the end," said Beanblossom. "They are definitely in for the long haul."

"We are where we are because of the cooperative effort and solid work with state, county and area partners," Pat Sheridan, incident commander for the Forest Service, said.

Resources at the scene include five crews, seven engines, two bulldozers and a helicopter for reconnaissance and water drops, officials said.

Area volunteer fire departments are available to help if needed. The Franklin, Upper Tract, Seneca Rocks, Moorefield and Petersburg volunteer fire departments were key in securing a fireline and protecting structures on private lands.

Additional firefighter personnel and resources continue to arrive.

"We received a good amount of resources today, including a crew from Colorado," Beanblossom said Thursday.

An emergency closure order issued by the Forest Service Wednesday night prohibits public access to lands in an approximate 3-square-mile area surrounding the fire.

The order will remain in effect for 120 days, unless the forest supervisor rescinds it.

Contact Chad Clem by email at cclem@theintermountain.com.

 
 

 

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