Forest Service scales back response to Dry Hollow Fire

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PENDLETON COUNTY, W.Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (Dec. 3):

A wildfire that began on Thanksgiving morning in Pendleton County appears to have stalled for now, and firefighters are scaling back their response.

The Dry Hollow Fire, which has burned about 1,289 acres about two miles north of Upper Tract, remains 60% contained, but the U.S. Forest Service says recent weather patterns have kept it from growing any larger.

At the fire's peak, there were nearly 80 firefighters on scene to establish control lines and get it contained, but the response is now being scaled back to twelve firefighter on site.

Those that remain will monitor the existing control lines in the area within the Monongahela National Forest.

“I’d like to thank the West Virginia Division of Forestry, Upper Tract Volunteer Fire Department, and Pendleton County Office of Emergency Management for their unwavering support during this incident,” said District Ranger Troy Waskey. “I also want to acknowledge and thank Franklin VFD, South Fork VFD, Circleville VFD, Seneca Rocks VFD, Highland County VFD, McDowell County VFD, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Tina Eye with the Pendleton County Search and Rescue Ladies Auxiliary, the local residents of Upper Tract and the greater Pendleton and Grant county areas, and everyone who donated supplies. This truly was a community effort.”

The remaining firefighters expect to be on scene for at least the next several days, as the Monongahela National Forest continues to coordinate with and support the Upper Tract Fire Department and West Virginia Division of Forestry.

Several private landowners have been affected by the fire, but no structures have burned. One privately-owned campground was evacuated.

Burned areas of the forest are closed to the public due to potential safety hazards like falling trees and rolling debris, but Smoke Hole Road (County Route 2) has now reopened from Upper Tract to Shreve’s Country Store.

Strong wind gusts are expected to continue over the next few days and fire-weakened trees could fall.

Visitors to nearby National Forest lands, especially hunters, should continue to exercise caution while in the area as fire crews continue to work and hazards are still present.

Smoke may be visible from roads in the area. If you encounter smoke on the highway, slow down, turn on your vehicle’s lights, and drive appropriately for the conditions.

The cause of the Dry Hollow Fire remains under investigation.

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UPDATE (Dec. 2):

Despite rain and snow across the area in which the Dry Hollow Fire has been burning in Pendleton County, the wildfire continues to burn.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the fire, which is about two miles north of Upper Tract, near Smoke Hole, had burned a total of 1,289 acres as of Dec. 2.

A quarter-inch of rain over the weekend stalled its spread, and some snow at higher elevations helped, but did not extinguish it.

It's been burning in extremely steep and rocky terrain of the Monongahela National Forest since early Thanksgiving morning, when Pendleton County and Upper Tract firefighters first responded.

Now, with about 60 firefighters on scene, crews are preparing the North Fork Mountain Trail as a control line to stop the fire's spread on its western side.

Crews are also preparing Pretty Ridge Road and FR 857 as contingency lines, should the fire spread to the south.

The eastern side is already contained with control lines established on Friday.

The Forest Service estimates that the fire is 60% contained, but with moisture moving out of the area and significant winds moving in, fire officials are monitoring the weather conditions closely to get the fire fully contained.

Forest Service fire officials are transitioning command at the scene to local resources on Tuesday and scaling back staffing from about 60 personnel to just 15.

“We are relieved we finally got some moisture to help us with this fire," Incident Commander Walt Walter said on Monday. "Today, we reinforced fire lines and contingency lines around the fire, and we will continue to monitor the area for remaining fire activity.”

Those remaining on scene will monitor the existing control lines and patrol the area.

Crews expect to be on scene for at least the next several days, as the Monongahela National Forest continues to coordinate with and support the Upper Tract Fire Department and West Virginia Division of Forestry.

Several private landowners have been affected by the fire, but no structures have burned. One privately-owned campground was evacuated.

Burned areas of the forest are closed to the public, but Smoke Hole Road (County Route 2) has now reopened from Upper Tract to Shreve’s Country Store.

Visitors to nearby National Forest lands, especially hunters, should exercise caution while in the area.

Smoke may be visible from roads in the area. If you encounter smoke on the highway, slow down, turn on your vehicle’s lights, and drive appropriately for the conditions.

The cause of the Dry Hollow Fire remains under investigation.

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UPDATE (Nov. 29):

As of Friday night, the USDA Forest Service said they have 60% of the Dry Hollow Fire contained that has been burning in the Monongahela National Forest since early Thursday morning.

Fire officials said so far the fire has affected more than 700 acres of land. No structures have burned.

WHSV reached out to residents who live near Smoke Hole Road who are concerned about how close the fire is getting to their homes.

"Earlier it was further away and now its gotten a little bit too close for comfort," Cindy Ours a resident said. " Our vehicles smell like smoke, I smell like smoke, and it just seems like everything is very very smokey."

Terry Walter, the Incident Commander, said fire crews are working around the clock with 60 to 80 firefighters on scene, assisting the Upper Tract Volunteer Fire Department.

"Most of the active fire right now is on forest service land and that's why we are kind of managing the incident at this time working with the local volunteers," Walter said.

Walter said today they hoped to make a good dent in containing the fire as fire fighter worked to build a fire line and conduct burnout operations

"The low winds is really going to help us out we're making some real good progress, " Walter said. " We've got the northwest side of the fire already lined we're getting folks in there where we couldn't get them yesterday because of the winds."

Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Walter hopes with rain predicted for Saturday, they can contain the fire completely by Monday.

The fire is burning on both sides of the South Branch of the Potomac River, including Dry Hollow and Cave Mountain near Eagle Rock. Fire officials said some campers near Eagle Rock were asked to move for safety.

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Fire crews responded to a wildfire on Monongahela National Forest early this morning, two miles north of Upper Tract in extremely steep and rocky terrain.

The Dry Hollow Fire is estimated to be 530 acres and is on both privately-owned and federal lands. No structures have burned.

The fire is burning on both sides of the South Branch of the Potomac River, including Dry Hollow and Cave Mountain near Eagle Rock.

Several volunteer fire departments responded to the fire along with the West Virginia Division of Forestry and the USDA Forest Service. Fire crews secured private structures by constructing a dozer line and burning out areas around homes and outbuildings.

Crews continued to work throughout the day to assess fire contingency lines and access points. More resources will arrive Friday, including 30 additional firefighters and a helicopter.

The Forest Service is working to support the Upper Tract Volunteer Fire Department and the West Virginia Division of Forestry as they assess concerns for private property in the area.

Wednesday's damaging wind event knocked down several trees and caused the fire to spread throughout the day. Winds are predicted to diminish substantially overnight. Friday's winds are predicted to be light and variable, although it will be drier.

Smoke Hole Road (County Route 2) is closed from Upper Tract to Shreve’s Country Store, and one privately-owned campground was evacuated this morning. Smoke may be visible from roads in the area. If you encounter smoke on the highway, slow down, turn on your vehicle’s lights, and drive appropriately for the conditions. The cause of the Dry Hollow Fire is under investigation.