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Firefighters report progress destroying forest fire fuel source

By Joe Beck - jbeck@nvdaily.com

The Point 2 wildfire in the Jefferson and George Washington national forests continued to burn Wednesday with firefighters reporting steady progress in containing the blaze that began more than a week ago.

The fire was 80 percent contained over 1,162 acres, according to a news release issued Wednesday night by Cindy Frenzel, a spokeswoman for the national forests Lee Ranger District.

Frenzel stated in the release that five fire crews and two squads worked on extinguishing smoldering materials within 30-feet of the fire line and that they hope to finish burnout operations on Friday.

"Helicopters are still being used to assist in burnout operations, to potentially drop water to slow the spread of fire, and to bring supplies to firefighters," Frenzel stated in the release. "The public will see less smoke today and tonight. You may see some smoke tonight as it settles in low areas overnight; and tomorrow as burnout operations are used to burn remaining fuels on the northwest corner."

Frenzel said Tuesday that rain had hampered firefighters efforts this week and noted that the rain dampened the ground and made it harder to conduct a deliberate burn operation intended to destroy forest fuel that feeds the fire.

Frenzel said the Forest Service has sent additional crews to staging areas throughout the forest as a precaution against new fires starting. She said there were 700 lightning strikes counted in the forest "a few days ago, and sometimes additional fires pop up."

The Forest Service has identified lightning as the cause of the fire that was discovered around 1:30 p.m. on June 25. The affected area covers parts of Warren and Shenandoah counties on Massanutten Mountain between Sherman Gap and Veach Gap.

There are no roads closed, but two trails -- Sherman Gap and Veach Gap -- are closed. Two others -- Tuscarora from Shawl Gap to Panhandle Road and Massanutten National Recreation Traili from Shawl Gap to Veach Gap -- are partially closed.

There are 226 people fighting the fire from the Virginia Department of Forestry, Warren County Fire and Rescue, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue. Firefighters from South Carolina, Arkansas and Connecticut are helping to battle the blaze.

The Forest Service also reported good progress in containing the Neighbor Mountain fire just east of Luray north of U.S. 21 in Page County. That fire is burning on 2,163 acres and was 55 percent contained as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to a news release. Estimated containment date is July 15.

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