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Despite efforts, Massanutten wildfire doubles in size

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Firefighters fear dry, hot weather may hinder efforts to put out a blaze on Massanutten Mountain in Shenandoah and Warren counties.

More than 100 firefighters from around the country continue to work to contain the Point 2 wildfire between Veach and Sherman Gaps in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Crews had contained five percent of the fire which covered approximately 180 acres by Thursday morning, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

As of 6 p.m. Thursday the fire had spread to cover 353 acres, according to information provided by forest service spokeswoman Stephanie Bushong. The fire remains 5 percent contained.

"The fire will continue to grow on its own due to hot, dry weather and dry soil conditions," Bushong's report states.

"The fire poses a threat to homes and private land on the east and west sides," the report states. "The public is always advised to prepare for a worse case scenario."

Also the steep, rocky and rugged terrain makes access to the wildfire challenging for the firefighters, according to the forest service.

The Warren County Fire and Rescue Department remains on standby in case crews are needed, according to Chief Richard Mabie. The agency also continues to keep residents informed about the wildfire.

"They made some progress and put in more firelines and stuff," Mabie said Thursday afternoon. "I guess you could say we're kinda on the back burner support-wise so if it spreads out of the forest on to private land we'll be there. But we're monitoring all of that, trying to be that liaison between them and the general public so that the public knows what's going on."

The county department continues to field calls from concerned residents about the fire.

"They're calling, especially the ones away at work," Mabie said. "They want to get caught up on what happened today. 'Is it any closer to my house?'"

Fire officials haven't received calls yet from people complaining of breathing problems associated with smoke from the blaze, Mabie said. People remaining indoors may not experience issues with the smoke, the chief noted. The department reminds people that if they start experiencing trouble breathing to go inside.

"The public can expect to see smoke for several days due to the dry conditions in the fire location and the lack of predicted precipitation," the service states on the incident update. "The combination of gusty winds and low relative humidities will enhance the threat for the spread of wildfires this afternoon and early evening."

No roads near the fire have been closed. The forest service closed the Massanutten National Recreation Trail from Shawl Gap to Veach Gap. The fire also prompted the agency to close the Tuscarora Trail from Shawl Gap to Panhandle Road. The agency also closed the Veach Gap and Sherman Gap Trails. The Little Crease Trail Shelter also remains closed to the public.

The service warns people to use caution with all campfires and advises that law prohibits fireworks on all national forests.

The cause of the fire, first detected approximately 1:30 p.m. Monday, remains under investigation, according to the forest service.

The forest service encourages homeowners to visit www.firewise.org for information on how to make their homes more defensible from wildfires.

1 Comment

July 4th celebration coming up with all the hoopla but I wonder if fireworks should be allowed this year? These dry conditions are very serious and I worry about more fires.

Has arson been ruled out in this Massanutten fire? There are so many nuts running around now, one never knows.

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