NEW DETAILS: New River Gorge brushfire nearly contained
Brushfire in the New River Gorge spreads to 115 acres on Tuesday, April 22
Officials with the National Park Service updated the ongoing efforts to put out a brushfire that has burned 130 acres of the New River Gorge National River. They said on Wednesday, April 23 that the fire is nearly completely contained, but not yet fully controlled. Firefighters said that in some places the fire is burning a few acres over the fire lines that have been set up. Crews at the fire line said that this is a learning process because it is the biggest fire of this kind that has been seen in the area.
Fire Management Officer, Peggy Ainslie, said the fire definitely appears suspicious. She added that she was almost positive it was caused by human error. Meanwhile, the Endless Wall trail is still closed. Park Rangers said that they will not reopen the trail until the fire is completely out. According to Ainslie, that will take at least another week. Over the next few days officials said crews would work on cutting down trees and brush in the area of the fire.
The National Park Service now estimates a brushfire that is in the New River Gorge National River has spread to roughly 130 acres. That was as of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 22. The fire has closed the Endless Wall Trail in the Gorge. In a release from the National Park Service, rangers said that firefighters are continuing with their efforts to contain the Fern Creek Fire located in the Endless Wall area of New River Gorge National River. The fire burned 69 acres on Monday, April 21. That brought the total acres burned at the time of the release to approximately 84 acres since it was first reported on Sunday evening.
Personnel from the Mount Hope Fire Department and the Midewin Hot Shots are helping crews from the National Park Service. Hot Shots is a 20-person interagency wildland firefighting crew, hosted by the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington, IL.Crews are working to build fire line that will stop the fire spread. Rangers are hoping the forecast for increased cloud cover and higher relative humidity will help in firefighting efforts. The source of the fire remains under investigation.
High fire danger remains in effect for this region for the next several days. The NPS is reminding people that spring forest fire season is in effect through May 31. Daytime burning is prohibited from the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Outdoor burning is permitted only between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. Burning should be avoided altogether on dry, windy days.
As of Monday afternoon, around 20 acres in the New River Gorge National Park are burning in Fayette County. As our crews were running to the scene, a huge tree completely on fire from the inside, crashed to the ground. National Park Service, Nuttall and Fayetteville firemen are working around the clock to put out the blaze stretching from "Fern Creek" to "Diamond Point".
Park Ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk told 59News there doesn't appear to be much danger.
"Right now none, other than if you had bad asthma problems and were in the immediate area but right now it's burning in an area where there are no houses," Perkowski-Sisk said. "Brush fires can sometimes actually benefit wildlife. Most of the animals would have time to escape so I don't expect a whole lot of impact there. Fire is a natural process, it clean off leaf litter and makes room for leaves to grow."
Crews are working hours on end to contain and put out the blaze.
"They're putting in fire lines where they go in and scratch the surface down to the bare mineral soil. Fire has to have fuel to continue to burn so if you remove that fuel it creates that break which hinders the fire from going beyond that," she said.
The National Park Service asks everyone to please respect the trails that are marked closed. National Park Service Law Enforcement and Division of Forestry are investigating the cause of the fire. Authorities say it could take up to a week to put the fire out.