Forest Service plans several controlled burns in the northern Shenandoah Valley

The Forest Service plans to control burn more than 20,000 acres. / (MGN)
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SHENANDOAH COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — This spring, several controlled burns will be conducted throughout Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, 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. They also help keep the public and homes safe by reducing the buildup of dried leaves and wood in forestland that could lead to uncontrolled wildfires.

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. Prior to that time, for thousands of years, natural fire shaped the forests in our area.

Between mid-March and late-May of 2020, the Forest Service will carry out controlled burns on the following areas:

• 3,578 acres of of the Cub Run area in Page and Rockingham counties
• 1,560 acres of the Little Schloss area in Shenandoah County
• 361 acres of the Buck Mountain area in Hardy County, W.Va.

The Cub Run burn will take place about 2.3 miles west of the town of Shenandoah and 2.9 miles north of Massanutten Resort. The Massanutten South Trail and Cub Run Road may be temporarily closed during the controlled burn. Depending on wind direction at the time, smoke from the fire could be seen in Shenandoah, Massanutten, Elkton, New Market, and Harrisonburg, and for drivers on State Route 722, State Route 620, State Route 602 and U.S. Route 340.

The Little Schloss burn will take place about 7.5 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock and 9.5 miles northeast of Wardensville, W.Va. W.Va. Narrow Passage Road (Forest Service Road 88) and Little Stony Road (Forest Service Road 92) may be temporarily closed during the burn. Depending on wind direction, smoke may be seen in St. Luke, Columbia Furnace and Woodstock, or by drivers on Narrow Passage Road, Little Stony Road, Senedo Road, Trout Run Road and Interstate 81.

The Buck Mountain burn will take place about 10 miles southwest of Wardensville on Buck Mountain. Squirrel Gap Road (Forest Service Road 344) on the west side of the burn area, and West Buck Mountain Road (Forest Road 508) on the south and east sides, may be temporarily closed during the burn. Depending on wind direction, smoke may be seen in Baker, Mathias, Rio and Wardensville, W.Va., or by drivers on Corridor H, Trout Run and Thorny Bottom roads.

Smoke can be expected 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, you can contact the Lee Ranger District at (540) 984-4101.