By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
The wildfire on Massanutten Mountain in Warren and Shenandoah counties is raging over an estimated 623 acres and expected to continue to spread.
It's thought the fire was started Monday by a lightning strike, according to a release from George Washington and Jefferson National Forests Lee Ranger District spokesman Ted Coffman Friday night.
There are now nearly 150 personnel fighting the fire, according to the release, which says the Virginia Department of Forestry, Warren County Fire and Rescue, the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are assisting.
The Point 2 fire in the area between Sherman and Veach Gaps remains at 5 percent containment, Stephanie Bushong, a public information officer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, said Friday.
"The fire poses a potential threat to homes and private land on the east and west sides," the release states. "The public is always advised to prepare for a [worst]-case scenario."
Temperatures in the 100s and a lack of rain combined with the possibility of gusty winds could help to spread the fire, it states.
"The fire will continue to grow on its own due to hot dry weather and dry soil conditions," the release states.
Bushong said smoke was being reported by residents in Front Royal.
The smoke is coming not only from the Massanutten fire, but also a larger blaze on Neighbor Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park in Page County. The Neighbor fire has burned approximately 815 acres, and is about 10 miles east of the Point 2 blaze.
Firefighters are working on building, improving and holding control lines using heavy equipment and hand tools, Coffman's release states. They'll be aided by a helicopter dropping water and bringing supplies to firefighters who are working in remote rugged areas, it states.
While roads near the Point 2 incident remain open, Bushong advised motorists that they may experience smoky conditions if they drive near the wildfire.
The forest service has closed the Massanutten National Recreation Trail from Shawl Gap to Veach Gap; Tuscarora Trail from Shawl Gap to Panhandle Road; Sherman Gap Trail and Veach Gap Trail. The Little Crease Trail Shelter also remains closed.
"With everything, we're asking that people use caution with all camp fires and that fireworks are prohibited on national forest land," Bushong said.
Coffman's release suggests residents visit www.firewise.org for information about protecting their homes, and www.inciweb.org for updates on the fire.
Sally Voth contributed to this report.