Shenandoah National Park bans fires as drought conditions persist

Shenandoah National Park has instituted a park-wide fire ban, as many other public lands have, as high winds and dry conditions continue to increase the likelihood of wildfires.

Patressa Kearns is a park ranger in Shenandoah. She said that all open fires, even in designated rings and pits are prohibited.

“It was just in the south district and now it’s been extended to cover the whole park,” she said. “Anything that’s wood, charcoal, coal or other solid-fuel open air fires are prohibited.”

The types of fires Kearns mentioned are always prohibited in the park’s backcountry except at shelter locations along the Appalachian Trail, but the new ban will outlaw fires of that nature even in those areas.

Smoking is also prohibited throughout the park unless in an enclosed vehicle or on developed, gravel or asphalt surfaces.

Park officials are hoping for precipitation, some of which is forecast. The ban will likely continue until adequate rain or snowfall reduces the current conditions, Kearns said.

“Our chief ranger mentioned that they’re calling for rain Thanksgiving day and that would help,” Kearns said. “Even an inch of snow would help. There wasn’t any rain in the forecast for a while so it (announcing a fire ban) seemed like a wise thing to do.”

This announcement comes on the heels of George Washington and Jefferson National Forests instituting similar forest-wide bans, as conditions throughout the state are ideal for wildfires. According to the Associated Press, fire burning in the southern reaches of George Washington National Forest near Amherst has spread to 1,200 acres.

The Associated Press has also reported on fires in Tennessee, the Carolinas and other mid-south states in recent weeks.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com.

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