Park lifts fire ban

Shenandoah National Park has lifted its parkwide fire ban after some rainy weather made its way to the region over the past few days.

Sally Hurlburt, public information officer for the 81-year-old park, said the ban was put into place as a preventative measure.

“(We were) trying to prevent anything from happening because what was happening south of us was so intense…” she said, explaining that many firefighters had been called to fight fires in the South and that it would have made it much more difficult if a fire had broken out in this area while they were battling the other fires.

The Associated Press reported that fires affected portions of southwestern Virginia and devastated portions of Tennessee recently, including destroying or damaging hundreds of structures in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Hurlbert said that the next few weeks are looking good in terms of higher moisture and the possibility of increased precipitation, but that weather is unpredictable by nature.

“It’s hard to do a long-term forecast,” she said. “Right now in the short term it’s looking pretty good. But then again it could dry out and be dry again. Right now we felt it was wet enough to go ahead and lift the burn ban for now.”

She also noted that while fires in designated rings and grates are now allowed in the backwoods of Shenandoah National Park, a ban such as this can work to educate people about the dangers of fires during this time of year when ample fuel, in the form of leaves, is so ubiquitous.

“It’s also a reminder for people outside of the park, it’s just not a good idea to burn leaves,” she said. “There are other ways they could deal with them that’s a lot safer than burning them.”

Hurlbert said that while fire bans are rare for the park, there are times when they are necessary, with the last week and a half’s dry, windy conditions fitting the criteria for such a ban.

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