Forest Service begins controlled burns in Page County

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PAGE COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (March 13):

The U.S. Forest Service plans to start two prescribed burns in Page County on March 13.

According to a press release, firefighters will ignite burns in the Moody and Seakford fields, which are along the Shenandoah River just west of Rileyville.

The Moody field burn will cover about 45 acres and the Seakford field burn will be 86 acres.

Both are being carried out to maintain early successional species, which favor open grass and shrub land habitats.

The fires should be extinguished by the end of the day, but, throughout the day, smoke may be visible along parts of Rt. 340, Rt. 684, and Rt. 717, as well as in Compton, Rileyville, Fort Valley, and possibly Luray.

Prescribed burns by the Forest Service mimic historic natural fire as much as possible. The fire will move slowly in areas, but in grassy areas may spread rapidly with high flames for short periods of time within containment lines. Some individual trees will burn, but the fire should travel mostly across the forest floor in wooded areas.

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This spring, several controlled burns will be conducted throughout Augusta, Page, and Hardy counties in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

Those forestlands provide habitat for thousands of species, including nearly 300 threatened, endangered, sensitive and locally rare wildlife and plants.

Controlled burns help preserve those species by creating open areas where a diverse mix of grasses, plants, and wildflowers grow and provide valuable food and cover for wildlife.

The past 100 years of fire suppression and an aging forest have led to a rapid loss of young forests and wildlife habitat needed for healthier animals, water, and people.

Between mid-March and late-May of 2019, the Forest Service will carry out controlled burns on the following:

• 2,700 acres of Catback Mountain in Page County
• 334 acres of Indian Grave Ridge in Page County
• 300 acres of Moody in Page County
• 400 acres of Buck Mountain in Hardy County
• 827 acres of Grindstone in Augusta County
• 125 acres of Rail Hollow in Bath County
• 70 acres of Marshall in Bath County

The Catback Mountain burn will be near Fort Valley, Luray, Shenandoah, and Stanley. Indian Grave Ridge is near bentonville, Fort Valley, Compton, Rileyville, and Luray. Moody is near Compton, Rileyville, Fort Valley, and Luray. Buck Mountain is near Baker, Mathias, Rio, and Wardensville. Grindstone is near Stokesville, West Augusta, and Briery Branch. Both Bath County burn sites are near Deerfield, Green Valley, and Williamsville.

Those communities near the burn areas can expect smoke to be visible when these burns take place, likely settling in lower elevations and valleys during the night and early mornings.

Just before the burns, the Forest Service will issue an advisory to local residents and will temporarily close the project areas while the burns take place.

Signs will be posted to notify the public of the closure.

Any visitors to the surrounding areas are urged to use caution in the coming months.

The firefighters who will be responsible for these burns have years of experience in protecting surrounding communities, themselves, and the land they are working to restore. They will closely monitor local weather conditions and make schedule adjustments as needed.

The burn will mimic historic natural fire as much as possible. The fire will move slowly in areas, but in grassy areas may spread rapidly with high flames for short periods of time within containment lines. Some individual trees will burn, but the fire should travel mostly across the forest floor in wooded areas.

For more information about specific burn projects and their locations in Augusta or Bath counties, you can contact the North River Ranger District at (540) 432-0187. For information on locations in Page and Hardy counties, contact the Lee Ranger District at (540) 984-4101.