Local Fire Officials Ready to Help in Shenandoah

By: Lisa Ferrari
By: Lisa Ferrari

April 6, 2006

Fire fighters are working to extinguish a fire that has burned more than 175 acres of the Shenandoah National Park. Officials said it may have started by a lightening strike, and then it spread through the park but away from buildings and private property.

Crews have only about 15 percent of that fire contained.

At least 60 fire fighters are on the scene including members of our local forestry department.

Smoke billowed over the mountains into Crozet this morning as a stark reminder that a fierce fire is burning just miles away.

“There's no way to actually get to it other than on foot,” said Charlottesville firefighter and specially trained hotshot John Shifflet.

Fires like this require manpower and not a hose and water.

“The amount of water it takes to put out a fire such as what's going on in Shenandoah right now is just not realistic,” said David Powell with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Park officials have been doing most of the work but our department of forestry sent supplies and machinery. A dozer can quickly cut a fire line and fire fighters work to contain the fire within the line. With a chainsaw crews cut dead snags and trees out of the way

Specially trained firefighters called hotshots maintain the fire line with rakes.

“We actually rake the leaves and all the debris back to a spot for the fire to burn up to,” said Shifflet.

Local hotshots like John Shifflet are on stand-by, ready to respond if called.

“I haven't heard anything. Most of the time we just get paged,” said Shifflet.

Now fire fighters in Shenandoah are making sure nothing falls across the fire line. Eventually the fire will make its way up to the line and puts itself out or Mother Nature may lend a helping hand.

“Until we get significant rain fall, fires like on Shenandoah will continue to smolder, sometimes [for] weeks,” said Powell.

So far this year Virginia has had more wild fires and more acres burned than all of last year.

Local fire officials said even though burning is allowed after 4:00 p.m. with current conditions it’s safer not to burn at all if possible.

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