Many residents of Loudoun County awoke Thursday morning to a strange smell, one of smoke that has drifted up from a wildfire in Shenandoah National Park’s portion in Page County, just north of Route 211.
The fire, approximately 80 miles from Loudoun, had spread up to 200 acres of Neighbor Mountain as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to Karen Beck-Herzog, public affairs officer for the park.
“Fires do occur in Shenandoah National Park,” she said. “It appears to be natural causes … there was lightening in the area.”
Beck-Herzog said the park received a call of the fire at 6:40 a.m. Park authorities are currently building a containment line around the acreage affected.
Laura Rinehart, public information officer for Loudoun County Fire and Rescue said they received numerous calls last night in the Round Hill area from residents smelling smoke. But, she assures that there is no immediate danger in Loudoun County with the fire happening at the park.
“With the low humidity and wind the last few days, that’s why the smoke has traveled such a distance,” Rinehart said.
She also said if the humidity increases the smoke smell will dissipate.
“With the temperature rising and the recent lack of rain, residents should be extra cautious with any type of smoking materials, legal fireworks and grills,” Rinehart urges residents to consider.
Fires need three things, Beck-Herzog said, which include fuel, oxygen and heat. By building a line around the fire, she continued, the fire can’t be fueled if the area around it is down to mineral soil. Authorities have been removing leaves and litter and using hardwood trees, mountain laurel and blueberry brush to contain the fire.
Beck-Herzog said the fire is slow moving and there are no structures that could potentially be damaged in the area.
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, in Shenandoah and Warren counties, is also experiencing a 1,000 acre wildfire, which Beck-Herzog noted could be another reason Loudoun residents are smelling the smoke. The fire, called Point 2 fire, is located on Massanutten Mountain between Sherman Gap and Veach Gap, approximately 50 miles from Loudoun County.
“With low humidity, lack of rain and wind, conditions are favorable for outside fires,” Rinehart said. “These fires cover ground quickly, feeding on the dry vegetation and grasses. We advise people to be extremely cautious.”
According to Rinehart, the last huge brush fire they had was reported Feb. 19, 2011 with multiple incidents due to the dangerous fire conditions in Philomont and Round Hill.
She said the Philomont incident occurred in a field across from 20852 Furr Road.
“When crews arrived they found a fast-moving, wind-driven woods [or] field fire with three potential exposures,” Rinehart said. “The crews worked quickly to protect the exposures and to create a fire break. They were able to save the residential exposures. This incident occurred during a red flag warning.”
With the Round Hill incident, the fire happened on Blue Ridge Mountain Road, Rinehart stated, where approximately 40 acres of woodland were on fire.
“They reported several small structures were also threatened by the spreading fire. This fire was also fueled by the high winds and dry conditions,” she said. “Crews battled the blaze throughout the night and remained on scene for several hours to ensure there were no rekindles.”
As of 1:30 p.m. Beck-Herzog said the National Park Service is containing the fire by lighting a line fire. By doing this, she said, the line fire will burn the surrounding area down to mineral soil. Once the wildfire reaches the line it won’t have anything to feed off of and will go out. Fire personnel from the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Department of Forestry and Mississippi Forestry Commission are have been dispatched to the area, Beck-Herzog said, along with additional firefighters and equipment are en route.
This is a developing story. Check back at LoudounTimes.com for more information when it becomes available.
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