Smoke Hole Fire Update

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Smoke Hole Fire Update

Forestry Service and WV Forestry

November 14, 2013
For more information call:  304-257-4488 extension 28
US Forest Service Public Information Officer, Robert Beanblossom, 304-993-1862
Division of Forestry Public Information Officer, Leslie Fitzwater Smithson, 304-957-9342

  Smoke Hole area of the Cheat-Potomac Ranger District, Monongahela National Forest, approximately 11 miles southwest of Petersburg, in Pendleton County, WV.
Acres:  Approximately 1400 acres and 20% contained

Cause: Under investigation

Current Situation:The fire was first reported Sunday afternoon and is now burning on the Monongahela National Forest and nearby private lands. Thirty-five acres of private land have burned and approximately 1,400 acres have burned on national forestland. The West Virginia Division of Forestry has jurisdiction on private land; the U.S. Forest Service has jurisdiction on national forestland.

Wednesday was a very productive day, with good progress made along the southeastern edge of the fire. Franklin, Upper Tract, Seneca Rocks, Moorefield, and Petersburg volunteer fire departments were key to securing fire lines and structural protection on private lands. Pat Sheridan, U.S. Forest Service Incident Commander shared, “We are where we are because of the cooperative effort and solid work with state, county, and area partners.” Solid progress was made establishing an indirect fire line around the western and northern edges of the fire. This is a long-duration fire and a containment date is not predicted at this time.

There are significant resource and weather changes from the past few days. More than 150 people are on location at the fire today. Resources have arrived from approximately 18 states. Crews will be constructing and improving new line as well as patrolling and securing existing line. Firefighting strategies include direct and indirect attack. Direct line is built on the fire’s edge, where safe, and includes construction with hand tools and leaf blowers. Indirect line is constructed further away from the fire when direct lines are unsafe or impractical. Indirect line can integrate the use of existing topographic features and roads. A helicopter is being used for reconnaissance and water drops.

Yesterday there was minimal activity with little smoke visible. Today’s forecast is for high 50s, significantly warmer than the past few days. The warmer weather and unseasonably low humidity can produce a change in fire behavior. The surrounding area may see more smoke today due to winds and continuing fire suppression activities. Anywhere from 2” to 20’ flames are possible, depending on the fuel types and weather conditions. Today’s objectives are to provide for firefighter and public safety, provide protection to communities within the fire area, and to protect natural and cultural resources to the extent possible.

Resources Assigned: The Smoke Hole Fire is cooperatively managed under a unified command structure between the WV Division of Forestry and US Forest Service.  WVDOF Regional Forester Rudy Williams is the agency’s incident commander for activities on private land; Foresters Tommy George and John Anderson are structure protection coordinators working with local VFDs; Wildland Fire Investigator Art Yagel is investigating the cause of the fire; and Fire Specialist Rodger Ozburn is providing special assistance as needed. Federal resources include: 5 Crews, 7 engines, two dozers, and a helicopter.  Area volunteer fire departments are available if needed.  Additional fire personnel and resources continue to arrive.

Closures: An emergency closure order is in place in the surrounding national forest system lands.

Cheat-Potomac Ranger Station, 304-257-4488 extension 28.