The Times West Virginian

November 14, 2013

Forest fire grows to 2 square miles


Associated Press

PETERSBURG — Firefighters continued efforts on Wednesday to contain a wildfire in Pendleton County that has burned about 2 square miles of land in the Monongahela National Forest, along with nearby private lands.

The Smoke Hole fire was burning about 11 miles southwest of Petersburg. About 20 percent of the fire was contained as of Wednesday, the U.S. Forest Service said in a news release.

Forest Road 79 and a section of North Fork Mountain Trail remain closed to the public.

The fire was reported Sunday afternoon on private land and then spread to the national forest. The cause remains under investigation.

Firefighters made progress suppressing the southern end of the fire on Tuesday, despite challenging conditions, the Forest Service said.

“This is an unusual fire. There was fire burning actively against the wind in a snowstorm,” Operations Chief Pete Irvine said in the release.

On Wednesday, firefighters concentrated on holding and improving the fire line, building a new fire line and fighting the fire in areas where conditions are safe.

“Today’s objectives are to provide for firefighter and public safety, provide protection to communities within the fire area, and to protect natural and cultural resources to the extent possible,” the Forest Service said.

The fire is being fought on national forest lands by two 20-person fires crews managed by the Forest Service and the West Virginia Division of Forestry. Five fire engines and a helicopter are being used in the effort.

Volunteer fire departments from Franklin, Upper Tract, Seneca Rocks and Petersburg were working to suppress the fire on private lands.

The Forest Service said additional fire personnel and resources have been ordered to help fight the fire.