Firefighters continued Wednesday to battle a blaze covering hundreds of acres in the George Washington National Forest.
A fire reported Nov. 14 remains active in the area of Kennedy Peak on Massanutten Mountain in the forest. The blaze covered roughly 630 acres across the Shenandoah and Page county lines, according to information released by the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday afternoon. The fire is about nine miles south-southeast of Woodstock, 1 1/2 miles north of Kennedy Peak.
The fire prompted agencies involved in the operation to close several hiking trails in the area.
Crews conducted “burn-out” to remove debris and other unburned fuel sources that, if ignited, could allow the spread beyond the perimeter known as a fire line, Stephanie Chapman, the public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service for this operation, said by phone Wednesday morning. Chapman works out of the federal agency’s Lee District in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
Firefighters had approximately 35 percent of the blaze contained as of Wednesday afternoon.
The U.S. Forest Service and the Virginia Department of Forestry continue to work together to tackle the blaze that likely could continue to burn through today.
“People can expect to see a significant amount of smoke ... possibly (today),” Chapman said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, she said.
A caller first alerted the Forest Service to the fire at approximately 4 p.m. Nov. 14, according to information from Chapman. The agency called in additional resources and crews began their attack on the fire Friday.
“The Massanutten (Mountain) is an incredibly rugged, steep area and so firefighters actually have to hike in about 3 1/2 miles to get to the fire location,” Chapman said. “So access is pretty challenging.”
More than 100 firefighters came from several states to battle the blaze at its peak, Chapman said. A helicopter also assisted crews on the ground. Agencies also had four firefighting vehicles and a bulldozer for the operation. The National Park Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also have been involved in tackling the fire.
Areas temporarily closed as of Wednesday afternoon:
• Fire service roads 1723 & 1711 and Page Valley overlook parking.
• Trail No. 408 & 408A, Massanutten Trail at the Kennedy Peak Trailhead
• Trail No. 458, Stephens Trail and Trailhead.
• Trail No. 559, Habron Gap Trail
Agencies warn that Virginia law prohibits hunting adjacent to an active fire. Motorists should use caution and obey all road and trail closures.
Homeowners can visit www.firewise.org to learn how to make their homes less susceptible to wildfires.