Wildfire is 60 percent contained

Crews continue to make progress fighting the Smoke Hole Fire, as forest officials say the blaze, which spans approximately 1,600 acres, is now 60 percent contained.

Robert Beanblossom, public information officer for the Monogahela National Forest, said control lines have been set up around the entire perimeter of the fire.

“They are successfully maintaining the fire lines and they are holding up against the weather so far,” said Beanblossom.

Special precautions were taken to prepare for windy conditions Sunday and Monday, he said.

Wind gusts blowing at up to 40 mph could cause unpredictable fire behavior, Beanblossom said.

When asked what sort of impact the fire will have on the burnt land, Beanblossom said that, damage aside, the fire may provide some positive things to the region as a whole.

“Anytime you have a forest fire, there are going to be positive and negative consequences in the environment,” he explained. “Fire is essential in regeneration of certain trees and plants, and can burn brush and low hanging branches.

“Sometimes it can clean up the regions of dead tress and things like that. We are just making sure that it is contained and doesn’t get out of control.”

Beanblossom also said that, despite positive effects, the fire is still extremely dangerous and crews are still working around the clock to fight it.

With approximately 180 firefighters and support staff, including four crews, two modules, six engines, two bulldozers, and one helicopter assisting, crews are slowly taking control of the fire, he said.

The helicopter has completed more than 50 bucket drops, dousing the area with more than 9,000 gallons of water in active fire areas.

The blaze was first reported in the Smoke Hole area of the Cheat-Potomac Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest on Nov. 10. The cause remains under investigation.

Contact Chad Clem by email at cclem@theintermountain.com.