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Posted June 26, 2012 | comments 1 Comment

Firefighters battle fire on Massanutten Mountain

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

Accessibility and a lack of water are hindering efforts to contain a forest fire on Massanutten Mountain in Shenandoah and Warren counties, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said Monday afternoon.

A crew of 55 is battling the blaze in the national forest between Veach Gap and Sherman Gap, forest service public information officer Stephanie Bushong said.

Bushong said the fire is on the top of the ridge of Massanutten Mountain.

"The fire was called in yesterday about 1:30 [p.m.], and it's about a 3-mile hike in," Bushong said. "Last night when they left, they were estimating the fire was about 6 acres, but it's larger than that now. We just don't know how large at this point because we haven't had any information from the fire line itself because they don't really have cell coverage up there."

Bushong said the forest service firefighters are trying to coordinate with Fort Valley Volunteer Fire Company to possibly get a water tanker near the scene.

A helicopter is available to help fight the fire, but "we're trying to find out how to dip," Bushong said.

"There's really nothing that close except maybe the Strasburg reservoir," she added.

Firefighters are approaching the fire from the Fort Valley side of the mountain, since the Warren County side is so steep, according to Bushong.

"There's a cliff," she said. "You just can't access it. So, a lot of the activity is going to be on the west side."

Crews are going in off Fort Valley Road near Veach Gap, "and then hiking in 3 miles," Bushong said.

"They have backpack water pumps," she said. "We call them bladder bags. They also have shovels and rakes."

They'll use the tools to put in control lines, according to Bushong.

She added, "Last night, they did a lot of what we call snagging."

That's cutting down dead trees to prevent them from falling onto firefighters.

According to a forest service news release, the Massanutten National Recreation and Tuscarora Trails are closed between Sherman and Veach gaps.

Bushong advised hikers and campers to be cautious with campfires, and warned that fireworks are prohibited in the National Forest.

"The forest is very dry," she said. "The rain that we've been getting has been spotty."

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