Update on Shenandoah National Park Wildfire

By: Elizabeth Lamb Email
By: Elizabeth Lamb Email

A fire in Shenandoah National Park is rapidly growing. It reached 800 acres on Friday.

It is on Neighbor Mountain in the Page County area. It has not damaged any structures yet but several trails and shelters are closed in the park and the biggest concern is containing the fire.

To help keep people in the area safe, rescue workers from across the country traveled to the Valley to fight the wildfire. Several teams were on the ground and in the air working around the clock to get the fire contained. Helicopter crews headed to the Valley to get a better view of the fire and what needs to be done.

On crew member told a WHSV reporter what it was like to fight fires from the sky.

Fire Management Officer John Fry landed in a helicopter in Page County after getting a look from the sky of the burning Shenandoah National Park.

“It's a level-playing field, so instead of looking at it from the ground and you see all the topographic features, you're above the fire and you can see a lot more,” said Fry.

That view means Fry's team can use GPS technology to plan the team's best move. Teams from Georgia, New Jersey and Florida headed to the Valley to try and contain the fire.

“Wildland Firefighting's a small community and we try to help other agencies out, so a lot of the folks, if they weren't here would be out west on those fires.”

Park Officer Linda Friar said fires like this one need to be contained, since it stretched across the park's Skyline Drive.

She did say the fire could benefit the Valley's ecosystem, after firefighters extinguish it.

“This could actually be good in the long-run that it will get rid of that fuels,” said Friar. “If there's any other fires in that area it won't burn as much. It will bring new growth, and many of the species in the area rely on that. It's sort of like a cleaning out of your house.”

Fry said the crew's teamwork from firefighters and from the community has helped.

“It's great to see folks basically give up their day jobs to go to help fight fire,” said Fry. “The locals in town have been tremendous. They've stopped and talked to us and asked us how the fire's doing, so the local support's tremendous right now.”

The fire officer says Friday's hot and dry conditions exacerbate the fire. The park system wants people to know they could see more smoke from this fire and they want people to be aware of driving hazards that can come with smoke.

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