PETERSBURG - The wildfire raging in Pendleton County has spread over 1,400 acres across the Smoke Hole area of the Cheat-Potomac Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest, approximately 11 miles southwest of Petersburg.
Between Tuesday and Wednesday the fire's radius increased from about 700 acres to approximately 1,400 acres, with officials saying the fire was about 20 percent contained.
"The southern perimeter is pretty well-contained, but the northern, western and eastern sections are still pretty active," said Robert Beanblossom, public information officer for the Monongahela National Forest. "The dry conditions haven't helped but the fire is manageable."
Beanblossom said there was no definitive timetable as to when the fire will be fully contained, and that crews are planning to stay for several days to get the fire under control.
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, and no structures have been reported as being affected by the fire.
First reported Sunday afternoon, the wildfire is now burning in both the Monongahela National Forest and on nearby private lands.
"This is an unusual fire," said Operations Chief Pete Irvine as he summarized efforts to contain the blaze. "There was fire burning actively against the wind in a snowstorm."
According to forest officials, the Smoke Hole Fire is cooperatively managed under a unified command structure between the West Virginia Division of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service.
The Franklin, Upper Tract, Seneca Rocks and Petersburg volunteer fire departments are providing suppression and structural assistance on affected private lands.
Additional fire personnel and resources have been ordered and continue to arrive.
Beanblossom said he had spoken to crew members on the scene who came from as far away as Ohio, Oregon and Washington State. Resources from Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Tennessee are providing personnel and resources.
Forest officials report that Forest Road 79 is closed to the public, as is the North Fork Mountain Trail at the intersection with the Landis Trail (#502) and south until US Route 33.
An area-wide emergency closure order was in place Wednesday for roads and trails including:
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 in Pendleton County between Highway 28/55;
- Pendleton County Road 23 to Eagle Rock;
- National Forest System lands north to Dry Hollow Creek;
- At the end of Dry Hollow Creek to the northeast boundary of Seneca Rocks Area;
- National Forest System 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.
Contact Chad Clem by email at email@example.com.