By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
EDINBURG -- Favorable weather conditions and additional crews raised hopes Wednesday among firefighters battling to control a blaze in the Wolf Gap area of the George Washington National Forest along the Virginia-West Virginia border.
Forest Service officials cautioned that the 600-acre fire remained only about 30 percent contained, a slight improvement from 20 percent containment on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, Stephanie Bushong, a public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service, was one of those who took heart from the arrival of two fire crews from the Southwest that raised the total number of firefighters from 26 on Tuesday to 46.
Bushong also cited cooler temperatures, sporadic mid-day snow showers and higher humidity as helpful factors.
"Conditions are more favorable for our firefighters who are building their containment lines," she said.
In a press release issued late Wednesday the Forest Service announced that Wolf Gap Road and Trout Run Road were reopened.
Fire Chief Gary Yew of the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue said Tuesday that the fire was started by a camper emptying a fire pit and dumping the ashes in the woods Sunday.
The fire encompasses an area east of Wolf Gap Road (Va. 675) and north of Forest Development Road 92, according to the Forest Service. Firefighters have built control lines on the north and south sides of the fire. Forest Development roads 92 and 88 remain closed.
Yew said Wednesday that firefighters were continuing to keep an eye on the Millertown Road area that is the closest residential development.
"If we feel at any point that the fire threatens that area, we will use county resources to set structure defense areas," he said.
Yew said firefighters remained short of the people and equipment they needed, but looked forward to help from the 40 members in the two crews that arrived Wednesday.
"They're really banking on those crews to start aggressive containment efforts," Yew said.
Yew said the weather forecast for Thursday and Friday offered a mixed picture. Lower humidity will make it easier for the fire spread, but diminishing winds lessen the chances it will gain new life.
The Wolf Gap fire is one of five in Virginia, including one on First Mountain in Page County that has closed Cub Mountain Road and cut off access to Pitt Springs and Big Mountain roads.