Blaze spreads to 1,600 acres

Firefighting crews continue working to contain the wildfire torching the Monongahela National Forest. The fire has grown to approximately 1,600 acres, but more than 190 personnel have the fire 50 percent contained.

“On the fire until dark every day, the dedication of these crews is outstanding. The unified command between the West Virginia Division Forestry and U.S.. Forest Service has been working well in managing this unusually large incident,” Incident Commander Rudy Williams, with the West Virginia Division of Forestry, said in a press release.

After containment is achieved, there are still numerous tasks and hazards to be addressed. These post-fire rehabilitation efforts will require the Smoke Hole emergency closure order to remain in effect.

When the fire is fully contained, fire and resource personnel will begin rehabilitation efforts. Resource effects and hazards from both the fire and suppression activities are currently being evaluated.

“We are continuously identifying resource needs and where possible, rehabilitation activities are already being implemented,” said Monongahela National Forest Resource Advisor Jeff Kochenderfer.

Impacts from the fire and efforts to suppress it presents an unusual number of hazards that are a risk to both public and firefighter safety. In the coming weeks and months, post-fire rehabilitation efforts will help mitigate those hazards.

AS an example, fire may continue to be present throughout the area after containment due to flare ups. Additional burn out operations may be conducted to eliminate pockets of fuel and prevent re-ignition. Numerous hazard trees are present along roads and trails throughout the fire area are constantly falling. Personnel will be felling identified hazard trees now and during the closure. Lastly, the numerous engines and large vehicles travelling and parking along the narrow steep roads during suppression and post-fire rehabilitation create traffic hazards.

The emergency closure only affects National Forest System lands in the vicinity of the Smoke Hole Fire. All public entry to this closure area is prohibited.

The vast majority of the Monongahela National Forest and West Virginia wildlife management areas will remain open for recreational use including hunting.

“We deeply appreciate the public’s understanding and cooperation during this time while the area is closed. I know this will impact our local hunters in the coming weeks, but maintaining safety for all of our firefighters, forest personnel and public is our top priority. We are working to address these hazards and will open the area as soon as possible.” Cheat-Potomac District Ranger Troy Waskey.

For more information about the Smoke Hole Fire and emergency closure order please visit the Cheat-Potomac Ranger Station or call: 304-257-4488 ext. 28.