Shenandoah National Park Superintendent answers your forest fire questions live

Published: Apr. 21, 2016 at 8:46 PM EDT
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Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jim Northup made time to visit WHSV in person and take viewer questions about the forest fire live via Facebook. Joining Superintendent Northup were Steve Parish (an incident commander trainee) and Catherine Hibbard (a Red Team information officer). Thanks everyone for participating and watching.

He also spoke with WHSV's Bob Corso (video above).

Below are the Facebook questions. For brevity, "thank you" follow-up posts have been cut out; but otherwise, the exchanges below are as written. They have not been edited for spelling, accuracy, or for the vagaries of auto-correct (or speech-to-text).

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Jeanette Spitzer Daugherty:

Does the National Park Service & Shenandoah Park Service how the fire was started?

Jim Northup:

It's under investigation, but believed to be human-caused.

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Merritt Lincoln:

Has it destroyed loft Mt camp ground?

Steve Parrish:

No.

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Dan Shelby:

If I don't make it somebody ask this: On Sunday Jim Northrup released a statement that said they were allowing the fire to burn and is being controlled in the fire ecology zone and a maximum management area was in place all in the name of land management. On Tuesday night he said they weren't just letting the fire burn. Which is it? Are they or aren't they allowing it to burn? Did you guys have a control on this fire from the very start and that control continues in the name of land management. Or did this fire get away from YOU? Also, when I called for info on Tuesday, I actually got to talk to a person. Why did she hang up on me when I mentioned Jim Northrup's comments that the fire was allowed to burn in the ecology zone for land management? Why did some forest services workers say this fire was a large scale controlled burn?

Jim Northup:

When the fire was first discovered, it was 70 acres in size, burning intensely and growing rapidly. It was too big and unsafe for a direct attack. From that point forward, it was only practical and safe to manage the fire within a larger area, which we call the maximum management area. Our goal from the beginning has been to ensure firefighter and public safety. and keep the fire within that management area.

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Steve Klevickis:

Can you describe the boundaries of the "maximum management area" on Saturday afternoon?

Jim Northup:

East of the Park's western boundary, west of the Skyline Drive, north of the Madison Run Fire Road, and south of Gap Run. With one exception, the entire fire is currently within that area.

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Steve Klevickis:

What are the approximate boundaries of the Park's Fire Ecology Zone?

Jim Northup:

There are various Fire Ecology Zones in the Park that vary in size and shape. We'd be happy to show them to you on a map if you contact us.

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Kevin Lee Painter:

Couple of days ago worst case was 8000 acres now that the fire is there what's the worst case now?

Jim Northup:

Given the extreme fire behavior, we believe it is safer and more practical at the Madison Run Fire Road, so we have moved the maximum management area to the south, increasing the acreage. Our goal continues to be to keep the fire in the Park's designated wilderness area.

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Tiffany Shifflett:

Has the fire jumped anymore? Is it still coming down the mountain?

Steve Parrish:

Today we have had 4 small spot fires to the east side of Skykline Drive, but all have been contained. The fire continues to grow, but we're not sure exactly where you're referring to.

Tiffany Shifflett:

Mountain Farm Road.

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Trace Gaskins:

Any chance the fire/smoke may close highway 33?

Jim Northup and Steve Parrish:

We do not anticipate closures on highway 33 or 211, but we are prepared and working with the Virginia Department of Transportation if conditions deteriorate.

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James N Ashlin West:

Can I volunteer to help put the fire out

Steve Parrish:

Thanks for your willingness to help. Unfortunately we are not permitted to use volunteers to fight wildland fires for federal agencies. Wildland firefighters are required to have specialized training requirements for safety reasons.

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Seabee Guy:

I use to fight forest fires here and out west back in the late 80s and early 90s. Is the park service looking for more volunteers?

Jim Northup:

Not for this fire, but the Park welcomes volunteers for other management activities. Thanks for asking!

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Jennifer Doyle Hudson:

What is the best way the public can assist firefighters and other volunteers? Is there an official place to drop off food and drinks? Is there any need for more volunteers in any capacity? If yes, what would those be?

Jim Northup and Steve Parrish:

Thanks for asking, Jennifer. We have been overwhelmed by the support of people like you asking how they can help. At this point the firefighters on this fire have everything they need, but if you'd like to donate, please do so for your local fire department.

WHSV adds:

We have a web story, "What and where to donate for the forest fire effort" here: http://bit.ly/1NmVhEu

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Samantha Propst:

Why was traffic being directed for a short time on route 340 at intersection of island ford road last night around 9:30? Is there anything being done about all the cars stopping along side of 340? This can be very dangerous.

Jim Northup and Steve Parrish:

We know of some construction in that area that was unrelated to the fire. The Rockingham County Sheriff's Department has been patrolling the road. Yes, this is a very dangerous spot to pull over. We ask people to not stop in this area!

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Mark Vakarchuk:

How close is it to residential areas?

Steve Parrish:

It has gotten within 100 feet of some structures but firefighters have secured firelines around them and no structures have been lost.

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Mackinley J. Rattey:

Any Theories What Started Fire ? ,Natural or Someone Started It?

Jim Northup:

It's still under investigation, but believed to be human caused.

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Mackinley J. Rattey:

My last questiion. Do you think Fire Is Linked Wirh Missing Person In Sandorah National Patk?

Jim Northup:

No, there is no connection.

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Alicia Harlow:

I dont know if I can make this event but maybe you can answer this. How often does the Forrest Service update the acreage burned with WHSV? Everything still says 5600 acres. Last night's totals. Just worried because we have friends in the path and it sure is windy

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Peggy Budreau Million:

My question also, all I can find gives 5600 acres burned so far & those are yester afternoons totals, need updates as I work in that area. Cannot be here at the time of live report, will already be working

Steve Parrish:

Acreage is updated daily. It is currently 7,935. No structures have been lost and firefighters continue to make progress

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Samantha Propst:

The fire is at approx 7935 acres yesterday 5600. Is there a projected timeframe of when the fire will subside? Do you think if we get the rain tonight it put it out?

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Samantha Propst:

Has anyone been evacuated? Especially in Beldore?

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Steve Klevickis:

I live north of the fire, and at the rate it has expanded in the last 24 hr it could be here in 2 more days. How and where do you plan to stop the fire on the north?

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Sonya Ensley:

.

Jim Northup and Steve Parrish:

Thanks everyone for all your questions. We need to get back to work!

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Teresa Bulle:

And from what im hearing from everybody else&the news cast people&from the shanandoah national park personal that the fire is good to burn because of all of the brush., but my thing is: not one person has mentioned anythng about any of the wildlife&all of the poor innocent animals.I guess nobody cares about the wildlife&what could happen to them.so sad..

WHSV - TV 3:

Actually we are airing a piece on that tonight at 5 & 6, we hope you will watch. (It is online here: http://bit.ly/1pmRawD )

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Nancy Lutz Goulart:

if we missed this, can we review the Q&A?!

WHSV - TV 3:

Hi Nancy, We are working on putting an article up on our website. -Emily

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