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Dry Hollow wildfire still smoldering

UPPER TRACT — Mother Nature, dropping a quarter inch of rain in the past 24 hours, has helped contain the 1,289 acre Dry Hollow wildfire two miles north of Upper Tract in the Smoke Hole area of Pendleton County as of Monday.

Upper Tract Fire Chief Mike Alt said Tuesday morning the fire is stalled but still smoldering.

More than 60 firefighters used chain saws, spades, rakes and leaf blowers to clear up to ten feet of vegetation “down to the bare earth” around the perimeter of the fire.

“It depends on the winds today including rain or snow as to whether it stays contained. Our fire line extends around approximately 60% of the area where the fire could burn to the edges, and with no more fuel, burn itself out,” Alt said.

“If the wind blows embers over the fire line, then the fire could reestablish. Then we would have to regroup and work again to contain it,” Alt added.

Because the Dry Hollow area is steep with a bad rocky terrain, “sometimes we can’t get the fire circle width we need due to trees, rocks or cliffs,” Alt said.

Media contact Kelly Bridges said firefighters were continuing to work on “preparing the North Fork Mountain Trail as a control line for fire spread to the west. Crews are preparing Pretty Ridge Road and FR 875 as contingency lines should the fire advance to the south. They are also monitoring control lines that were put in place Friday on the east side of the fire.”

As moisture moves out of the area and significant winds are forecast to move into the region, fire officials will closely monitor the onset of changing weather conditions with firefighters remaining on scene through the next several days, Bridges said.

The Dry Hollow fire was first reported early last Thursday morning on Monongahela National Forest, two miles north of Upper Tract in extremely steep and rocky terrain, according to a US Forest Service report. The fire is estimated to have burned 1,289 acres as of Nov. 30 and is on both privately owned and federal lands. So far no structures have burned.

Monongahela National Forest continues to coordinate with and support the Upper Tract Fire Department and West Virginia Division of Forestry as they monitor the needs of private landowners affected by the fire, Bridges said.

Burned areas on the National Forest are closed to the public, along with Smoke Hole Road and Forest Road 79. “Visitors to nearby National Forest lands, especially hunters, should exercise caution while in the area.” Bridges said.

Smoke Hole Road (County Route 2) is closed from Upper Tract to Shreve’s Country Store and one privately-owned campground has been evacuated.

Smoke was visible in a large area of the county. The Forest Service warns if a driver encounters dense smoke on the highway, to slow down, turn on the vehicle’s lights and drive appropriately to the conditions.

The cause of the Dry Hollow fire is under investigation.

Alt advised all property owners to take fire prevention precautions by removing dry leaves away from their homes, their gutters and other outbuildings.

“The fire season lasts until Dec. 31,” Alt said.