By Chad Clem

Staff Writer

PETERSBURG – Firefighting crews were slowly making ground in battling the wild fire burning in the Monongahela National Forest Friday, as they continued to work “directly and aggressively on all fronts” to contain the blaze, officials said.

“We’re fighting the fire aggressively,” said Robert Beanblossom, public information officer for Monongahela National Forest. “We are working toward complete suppression of the fire.”

The blaze, first reported in the Smoke Hole area of the Cheat-Potomac Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest on Sunday, now spans across 1,400 acres, or about two square miles of forest land and nearby private land. The cause remains under investigation.

U.S. Forest Service officials said Friday the blaze had not spread any further and was now at 30 percent containment, up from 20 percent Thursday.

“One thing we are particularly pleased about during this whole incident is our excellent safety record so far,” Beanblossom said.

“There has only been one minor injury reported. We take the safety of the public and firefighters very seriously with anything like this,” Beanblossom said. “It’s our number one priority.”

Officials reported that no structures have been affected, although smoke may be visible in the surrounding area for several days. This is a long-duration fire and a containment date is not predicted at this time, officials said.

A press release from Monongahela National Forest officials said Thursday was “another safe and challenging day.”

“Crews had a great day, improving containment and maintaining their safety record,” the release stated. “The south end is being mopped up and patrolled, (while the) east side is cooling down nicely.”

Crews were also working on the north-west edge of the fire with bulldozers and a helicopter Friday, officials said.

Approximately 150 firefighters and support staff, including four crews, one module, five engines, two bulldozers, and one helicopter, are assisting in fighting the fire.

An emergency closure order is in effect until further notice for the areas of:

– Redman Run Trail (Trail #507) from the North Fork Mountain Trail (Trail #501) to Smoke Hole Road (Grant County Road 23);

– National Forest System Lands (NFS) in Pendleton County between Highway 28/55;

– Pendleton County Road 23 to Eagle Rock;

– NFS lands north of Dry Hollow Creek at the end of Dry Hollow Creek to the northeast boundary of Seneca Rocks Area;

– and NFS lands and Seneca Rocks Area boundary to the northwest boundary of NFS lands and Seneca Rocks on the Cheat/Potomac Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest.

The order will remain in effect for 120 days, unless the forest supervisor rescinds it.

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