Fire Still Burning

By: Amy Gleason
By: Amy Gleason

Fires are built on three things, oxygen, fuel and heat.

We're lucky here in the Valley because our mountains don't have the same fuel as the big fires out west, causing less heat and oxygen and a better chance our forest fires will spread slowly.

"Much of the fire behavior here is one to two foot flame lengths which means I could go up to it and use my hands to help move hot fuels further back into the fire," said Barbara Stewart of the National Park Service.

That's a big difference from the fires in Colorado and Arizona where flames reach as high as 500-feet and can spread up to 9,000 acres an hour. Stewart says there's little you can do in that type situation.

"My gloves aren't going to do anything. Big equipment will do very little," added Stewart. "Certainly individual firefighters and individual crews can not do anything in the face of something like that."

The difference between fires here and in Arizona or Colorado is how it burns. Our fire is running primarily along the forest floor along the surface. We also have big, leafy trees that hold lots of water, making them less likely to go up into flames. Out west, old pines fuel flames and the fire spreads through the treetops.

"The big wild card in all fire fighting is the weather. And each day, that's going to change," said Stewart.

Out west, the heat of the fire can produce its own weather like thunderstorms and even tornadoes. Since our fire won't get as hot, chances are that won't happen, but the weather will determine when the fire will be put out.

Crews hope to have the park fire contained by this Saturday. If you have plans to hike, you might want to make sure it's safe. Several trails have been closed. Officials say not to take any trails in the Big Run drainage area of the park. If you have any questions about where you can and can't go, call 540-999-3508.

50 North Main Street Harrisonburg, VA 22801 540-433-9191 - Switchboard 540-433- 4028 - Fax 540-433-2700 - News Fax

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