Crews battle scores of wildfires in Virginia, including a blaze in Shenandoah National Park

Officials say crews are battling scores of wildfires around Virginia, including a fire affecting hundreds of acres at Shenandoah National Park

Via AP news wire
Thursday 21 March 2024 14:32 GMT
East Coast Wildfires
East Coast Wildfires

Crews were battling scores of wildfires around Virginia on Thursday, including a fire affecting hundreds of acres at Shenandoah National Park, amid an elevated fire risk, officials said.

More than 100 new fires popped up Wednesday amid gusty winds and low relative humidity, affecting more than 1,600 acres across the state, many of them in the central part of the state, Virginia Department of Forestry spokesperson Cory Swift said by telephone.

At least 16 fires were contained and hundreds of firefighters worked overnight to contain the others, Swift said. Amid high winds, officials were seeing some downed powerlines causing fires, he said.

A fire that started on private land in the Luray area of Page County spread very quickly into Shenandoah National Park, reaching about 450 acres by Thursday morning, park spokesperson Claire Comer said by telephone. The majority of the fire is inside the 200,000-acre park and is about 10% contained, she said. Officials are hoping for additional resources to arrive Thursday.

Smoke from a wildfire closed about 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) of Skyline Drive, the park announced Wednesday. Fire also closed sections of the Appalachian Trail and a fire ban was also in effect for all of Shenandoah National Park.

Page County officials declared a state of emergency Wednesday evening as several communities were asked to evacuate and county schools were closed Thursday. Louisa County also declared a state of emergency and recommended evacuations in some communities, but by evening, the fires were contained, officials said.

The National Weather Services Baltimore-Washington said in a social media post Wednesday that if people smelled smoke outdoors that numerous wildfires in the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding areas were the likely source.

Wildfires were also reported in neighboring Maryland on Wednesday. Crews contained a 60-acre fire in a wooded area in Barnesville, in northwestern Montgomery County, that was believed to have been started by a downed power line, county Fire & Rescue Service spokesperson Pete Piringer said in a social media post. Another fire that broke out in a wooded area in Silver Spring on Wednesday night was visible from the Capital Beltway, he said.

Conditions were expected to be less elevated Thursday and precipitation expected in the region Friday could help dampen fuels and soak the ground, Swift said.

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