Firefighters battle Matts Creek Fire by putting out hotspots; hazardous air expected Monday

Published: Nov. 19, 2023 at 7:11 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BEDFORD CO., Va. (WDBJ) - We are now entering the second week of the Matts Creek fire in Bedford County.

The fire has spread over nearly 8,000 acres, just under 12 square miles. 27% of the fire is contained as of Sunday night.

The number of firefighters has nearly doubled with nearly 300 people working the Matts Creek Fire Sunday.

With control lines completed, crews have a contingency line as a plan B if the fire spreads beyond those points.

“Firefighters were able to make direct attack, go direct to attack the fire, rather than wait for the fire to come to the fire line.” said the Southern Area Red Team Public Information officer Joe Mazzeo.

Mazzeo said this is great news for limiting fire growth. With more control over the fire, the biggest issue now is dealing with hazard trees, or snags.

“As the fire continues to smolder and bury deeper into the ground, some of those trees are starting to fall, which could impact the roadway as it rolls down the slope,” explained Mazzeo.

Click here for school closures and delays.

Click here for other stories about the Matts Creek fire.

Click here for updates and videos from the US Forest Service.

Firefighters are patrolling streets and removing snags so crews can put out hotspots. Mazzeo said when the hotpots are out, they may consider opening the parkway in Lima.

Between one and two inches of rain is expected across the entire region, lasting all of Tuesday. Mazzeo added it’s unlikely to get a full extinguishment of the fire.

“They will be performing aerial ignition today, the use of a helicopter along the ridge stops, and the intent there is to be proactive and to help protect these communities over here,” explained Mazzeo.

Crews began to initiate fires along this line so the fire would meet at the same point. The more the fire burns, the visibility on roads will decrease.

Incident Safety Officer Dave Marion said it’s key to have situational awareness when traveling on 501.

“Some of the drivers are looking up at the fire in the woods and pushing the people off the roads a little bit. So extreme caution, slow down, be safe as you’re driving on the roads,” said Marion.

With thicker smoke, Air Resource Advisor Jen Croft said the air quality is unhealthy even for those who do not have health issues.

“The air quality down in Big Island towards Lynchburg will continue to be hazardous to very unhealthy. And when it hits that level, it doesn’t matter if you’re old or young or very healthy in all respects, you’re going to have some implications to your lungs,” said Croft.

Tuesday’s rain will determine the mitigation of the fire spread.