Kennedy Peak Fire around 75% contained

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PAGE COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (Nov. 22):

Submitted to WHSV by Linda Cox

The U.S. Forest Service is reducing the manpower fighting the Kennedy Peak Fire as it nears containment just over a week since it began.

The fire, burning in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Page and Shenandoah counties, has burned around 745 acres as of Friday.

It's 75% contained, according to the Forest Service, and the firefighters on scene are monitoring and mopping up their existing fire containment lines.

That includes clearing hazard trees from around the containment lines.

At the fire's peak early this week, there were 120 firefighters battling it. Now, the Forest Service says there are about 40 firefighters, with four Type 6 engines and one dozer to support them.

One key update is that the Kennedy Peak Trail and observation tower have now reopened.

Still closed, though, are:

• All areas inside of the Kennedy Peak fire perimeter
• The section of the Massanutten Trail #408 from #408A Kennedy Peak Trail intersection to #559 Hebron Gap Trail intersection
• Trail # 458 - Stephens Trail and Trailhead Parking Area

Hunting is also forbidden in any areas next to the active fire.

Photos or video of the fire can be submitted to us here.

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UPDATE (Nov. 21):

The Kennedy Peak Fire, now burning for over a week, has grown to over 700 acres.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the wildfire that began around 4 p.m. last Thursday in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Page and Shenandoah counties has now burned at least 730 acres.

That's nearly 100 acres more than a square mile.

In the span of a day, the Forest Service says the fire went from being 35% contained to being 75% contained by fire lines.

The number of firefighters on scene to fight the blaze has also been steadily reduced, now to 89 firefighters and support staff, including four Type 6 engines and a dozer.

The Forest Service says crews on scene completed their burnout operations to clear debris and strengthen containment lines on Thursday. Firefighters continue to monitor and mop up the fire lines, cutting down hazard trees that could ignite, and may continue burnout operations, weather-permitting, on Friday.

Smoke is expected to continue to be visible for several days.

Roads and trails in the area of the fire remain closed.

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UPDATE (Nov. 20):

The Kennedy Peak Fire, a wildfire burning in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Page and Shenandoah counties, continues to burn nearly a week after it began.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the fire, about 9 miles southeast of the town of Woodstock and about a mile and a half north of Kennedy Peak, has now grown to about 630 acres.

For context, there are 640 acres in a square mile, so the fire has burned nearly a square mile of forestland. The Rocky Mount Fire, the last large wildfire in our area, burned over 10,000 acres.

Crews have gotten the blaze about 35% contained with fire lines.

There are now 109 firefighters on scene, down from 120 earlier this week, with support staff including four Type 6 engines and a dozer.

The firefighters have been conducting burnout operations along the edges of the fire, working in steep, rocky and rugged terrain to ensure that the fire won't cross their containment lines.

People working the fire have told WHSV that it's about a 3.5 mile hike just to get to the fire to be able to try to get it under control.

The Virginia Department of Forestry, National Park Service, and USDA Forest Service are all on scene.

Stephanie Chapman, with the U.S Forest Service, said there is no risk to any property, and ultimately, the fire will have cleared out a lot of shrubbery material on the forest floor to help the trees continue to grow in the future.

Roads and trails closed due to the fire still include:

• FS Roads 1723 & 1711 and Page Valley Overlook Parking
• Trail # 408 & 408A - Massanutten Trail - Kennedy Peak Trailhead
• Trail # 458 - Stephens Trail and Trailhead
• Trail # 559 - Habron Gap Trail

Smoke is expected to remain visible throughout Page and Shenandoah counties for several days.

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UPDATE (Nov. 19):

A forest fire that began last Thursday afternoon in Page County continues to burn after it grew significantly over the weekend due to gusty winds in the area.

The Kennedy Peak Fire, about 9 miles southeast of the town of Woodstock and about a mile and a half north of Kennedy Peak in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, has burned at least 545 acres.

Crews have been fighting the fire since Thursday, with about 120 firefighters and support staff on scene, including four Type 6 engines and one dozer. On scene are the Virginia Department of Forestry, National Park Service, and USDA Forest Service, among others.

By Monday evening, they had managed to get the fire 31% contained with fire lines.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, they've been working to construct fire lines in steep, rocky and rugged terrain, with a 3.5 mile hike just to get to the fire location.

Throughout Monday, according to the Fire Incident Commander, crews conducted burnout operations along two sections of the fire to eliminate possible fuel for the fire and strengthen existing containment lines, along with building and monitoring other existing fire lines.

"As the fire continues to burn it hasn't quite reached our containment line so we've been doing some burnouts," Stephanie Chapman, with the U.S Forest Service, said. "This means we're gonna blacken the fire line itself so it can't ignite ."

Burnout operations continued on Tuesday.

Chapman said there still is no risk to any property and that the fire could actually help the forest to grow.

"The fire cleans out the shrubbery material on the forest floor so there's more sunlight more nutrients can get to it," Chapman said. "The trees have adapted over time so the more mature trees are not going to be killed by the fire.'

Roads and trails closed due to the fire include:

• FS Roads 1723 & 1711 and Page Valley Overlook Parking
• Trail # 408 & 408A - Massanutten Trail - Kennedy Peak Trailhead
• Trail # 458 - Stephens Trail and Trailhead
• Trail # 559 - Habron Gap Trail

The Forest Service also encourages caution when driving on state highway 675 as fire suppression activity may be ongoing along the route.

Under Virginia law, hunting is also not permitted in areas adjacent to the fire.

Smoke is expected to remain visible throughout Page and Shenandoah counties for several days.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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UPDATE (Nov. 17):

The Kennedy Peak Fire, located on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests within the Lee Ranger District in Page County, has now burned 411 acres.

The U.S. Forest Service reported that 20 percent of fire line has been contained.

Approximately 120 firefighters and support staff, including four Type 6 engines, and one dozer, are working to construct fire containment lines, monitor and mop up existing containment lines.

The following are temporarily closed:
FS Roads 1723 & 1711 and Page Valley Overlook Parking
Trail # 408 & 408A - Massanutten Trail - Kennedy Peak Trailhead
Trail # 458 - Stephens Trail and Trailhead
Trail # 559 - Habron Gap Trail

Hunting is also restricted from areas adjacent to active fire under state law.

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UPDATE (7:25 p.m. Nov. 16):

The Kennedy Peak Fire, located on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests within the Lee Ranger District in Page County, has burned 119 acres.

The U.S Forest Service said Saturday's gusty winds played a factor in how big the fire could get.

"The fire will increase its activity based on the wind," Stephanie Chapman, with the U.S Forest Service, said. " The wind will also push the flames in different directions based on where it's coming from."

Chapman said the growth of the fire also depends on the fuel. She said the fire line is getting to a point where grass does not burn well.

Officials said they have also increased the number of firefighters on the containment line, maintaining the fire from growing.

"So we have a lot of people who were coming in yesterday," Chapman said. "Today they're hitting the ground running and they're gonna work really hard to get the fire contained."

Chapman said their number one concern is still the safety of their firefighters and community members. She said there is still no threat of damage to any nearby properties.

The U.S Forest Service said they understand Saturday is the first day of the rifle hunting season but asked the public to pay attention to some road and trail closure signs.

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UPDATE (Nov. 15):

The Kennedy Peak Fire, located on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests within the Lee Ranger District in Page County, has burned about 100 acres.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, it's burning about 9 miles southeast of the town of Woodstock and about a mile and a half north of Kennedy Peak.

Firefighters are scouting the fire location and working to protect private land and resources at risk. Additional firefighters are being mobilized to assist with fire suppression operations.

The Sheriff's Office reports there are 40 firefighters hiking in to the fire.

A helicopter and additional resources have been ordered.

The cause of the fire is under investigation with no estimate of containment at this time.

It began around 4 p.m. on Thursday.

Trails that are closed include:

• Kennedy Peak Trail (FR #408 from Hebron Gap and #408A)
• Stephens Trailhead and Trial #458
• Kennedy Peak look out parking area off of Hwy 675.

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A forest fire is burning in Page County.

According to a Page County Sheriff's Office Facebook post, the fire is burning near Kennedy's Peak.

The agency reports flames and smoke will be visible on Thursday night through Friday.

U.S. Forestry officials are on the scene and handling the situation.

No structures appear to be in danger.


Submitted to WHSV by Linda Cox