Wildfires threaten Franklin, crews battle to contain wildfires

Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 11:11 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2023 at 8:31 PM EDT
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PENDLETON COUNTY, Wv. (WHSV) - Two wildfires continue to burn in Pendleton County. Firefighters are on their third day of fighting the blazes.

The two wildfires started Tuesday afternoon after high winds knocked down trees onto powerlines.

The Smoke Hole Fire started near Callen Lane off of Smoke Hole Road near Eagle Rock Campground just north of Upper Tract. This fire burned at least 83 acres. According to a press release from Pendleton County Emergency Management, several fire crews fought the blaze, and it was considered extinguished Wednesday afternoon. Only mop-up operations remained for U.S. Forest Service personnel.

On Tuesday, as crews were fighting the Smoke Hole fire, they received a call just before 1 p.m. about a wildfire in the Hidden Valley area that was threatening structures.

The Hidden Valley Fire is the second and much larger wildfire that is burning a few miles southwest of Franklin near Entry Mountain Road. This fire has burned more than 1,500 acres. Fire officials reported the fire was mostly contained Wednesday night.


“Looking into investigating we found a place known as Callen Lane. We’ve had numerous fires there over the years in the area due to power lines and Tuesday was no exception. Upon investigating the thing, we ended up doing a unified command also. There we did with the West Virginia Department of Forestry and National Force,” Mike Alt, the Upper Tract Fire Department chief.

The town of Franklin on Tuesday was covered in thick smoke as high winds sent smoke from the Hidden Valley Fire into the town. On Wednesday, conditions had improved but there still is a lot of work to do to fully have the Hidden Valley Fire under control.


“The fire does continue to creep toward dwellings and the firefighters protect those as needed,” said Rick Gillespie, the Pendleton County Emergency Services Coordinator.

He said one cabin was consumed by flames just minutes after the fire started. It will be investigated moving forward.

Less than a dozen other structures have been endangered over the past few days.

Gillespie said Wednesday afternoon that they evacuated an elderly lady from her home in the Entry Mountain Community. Her home has been saved.

One homeowner who lives on Wakonda Drive a few miles southwest of Franklin, had the Hidden Valley Fire threatening her property Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a small town so everybody knew where the fire was before I got home and smelled smoke but I guess we always think it won’t happen to us and it won’t come our way. You know I was nervous about it and how close it was but kind of assumed it was headed a different direction,” said Laura Nulph, a homeowner near the fire.

As of Wednesday evening, the battle continues with the two fires. A large number of firefighters throughout West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland are battling the blaze.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the dozens of firefighters and WV Division of Forestry personnel who have answered the call. They have come from far and wide. Their efforts have ben nothing short of heroic,” Gillespie said.

He believes operations will likely continue for several more days with no substantial rainfall in the forecast. Gillespie noted the area involved has forests with an overabundance of fuels to burn, with downed and dead trees, diseased trees and undergrowth.

Fire officials said the only way to gain the upper-hand on this fire is to construct containment lines and allow foresters to supervise a controlled burning.

Gillespie thanked the community for their support over the last few days supplying crews with food, drinks, desserts and words of encouragement.

“This is appreciated beyond words and keep our folks moving forward on very little rest,” Gillespie said.