Officials declare emergency in North Carolina, big fire in Virginia

Officials have declared a state of emergency in a western North Carolina community where a wildfire has burned hundreds of acres and is threatening dozens of homes. It was estimated at 5 percent containment this afternoon.

According to the North Carolina Forest Service there was  one home damaged and two homes destroyed, along with one outbuilding and one uninhabited cabin; reported that the cause of the Poplar Drive Fire is  under  investigation. There have been no reported injuries.

The 431-acre fire in Henderson County threatens at least 75 other threatened structures; North Carolina Forest Service is focusing on putting in firelines.

CBS-19 out of Charlottesville reported that crews are also  fighting several separate fires in forested areas of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky as wide swaths of those states face moderate to severe drought conditions and warmer-than-normal temperatures.

Several counties in western North Carolina are currently in a severe drought, with wildfire activity increasing in the dry conditions. The North Carolina Forest Service issued a burn ban Sunday for 14 counties in the western part of the state because of hazardous conditions and said the ban  would stay in effect until further notice.

Q code: aim your camera here.Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the National Park Service are managing the 2800-acre Quaker Run Fire under unified command with Madison County Emergency Management. Their goals this afternoon included keeping the fire east of Rapidan Road and prepping both Rapidan Camp and Camp Hoover. Another priority is protecting power poles in the fire area.  Resources include Type 3 and Type 1 helicopters, and listed hazards included rolling rocks and continued falling snags.

Shenandoah National Park fire
Quaker Run Fire 11/06/2023 — NPS map by Justin Shedd

Park officials cautioned that visitors will encounter smoke in some areas; the fire is  burning on private, public, and park land on the eastern boundary near Whiteoak and Old Rag. The Quaker Run Fire includes about 670 acres within the Shenandoah National Park boundary. Updates on the air quality status is available online through the Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program. Updates are published daily by 8:00 a.m.

The powerline that supplies the Big Meadows area has been de-energized for firefighter safety. Big Meadows Wayside, the visitor center, and the campground are open and using generators. Some visitor amenities may be limited, and Big Meadows Lodge is closed for the season.

Virginia fire
Helicopters offer a good vantage point for monitoring the fire’s progression, especially in steep, mountainous terrain.  Virginia DOF photo

Fire weather forecast: High pressure is overhead but should slide offshore late Monday. Gusty south winds should return as the warm front lifts into the region. Gusts of 20-30 mph are possible at the fire location, and winds will be even higher on the ridges through Tuesday evening. Minimum humidities will remain around 35-40 percent across the Shenandoah Valley, with a predicted 40-45 percent east of the Blue Ridge. By Tuesday, these values are expected to improve as moisture builds back into the region.

Smoke is heaviest in the communities of Syria and Madison, which are closest to the fire, and in the central portion of the Park near Big Meadows, Whiteoak, and Old Rag. Smoke typically settles into low-lying areas in the evening and overnight, remains heavy in those areas in the morning, then lifts out in early afternoon. Smoke at Big Meadows is usually most noticeable in early afternoon as it is lifting or in the evening when smoke begins to settle. Hikers are encouraged to avoid the central part of the park.

 ~ Thanks and a tip of the hardhat to Matt and Cary.

Virginia deputy chief dies of heart attack after wildfire response

Chief Lauck
Chief Chester Lauck

A Virginia firefighter, Deputy Chief Chester T. Lauck with Frederick County Fire and Rescue, suffered a heart attack hours after responding to a wildfire and died the following morning.

The notice from the Frederick County Government Facebook page on Sunday announced “On behalf of Fire and Rescue Chief Steven A. Majchrzak, it is with profound sadness that we announce the Line-Of-Duty Death of Deputy Chief Chester T. Lauck, who passed away this morning at 8:09 a.m. at Winchester Medical Center surrounded by family and friends.”

Lauck LODD

In his most recent position, Lauck was responsible for the Emergency Management Division. Prior to that he had worked for the Winchester (Virginia) Fire and Rescue Department and had retired He retired from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Fire and Rescue Department as a Battalion Chief of the Special Operations Division. He’d also worked as an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighter (ARFF) for the Air National Guard and began service in 1984 as a patrolman for the Virginia Department of Forestry, where he worked on wildland incidents and events.

Firefighter killed while fighting fire in southwest Virginia

Rocky S. Wood died while fighting a wildfire in Buchanan County in southwest Virginia on March 9, 2023.

Wood, an employee with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), died at approximately 8:30 p.m. while working on a 15-acre wildfire near the Roseann community along Lester’s Fork Road. Prior to becoming a full-time forestry technician with VDOF in 2016, he had worked as a part-time wildland firefighter with the agency and for the Virginia Department of Corrections. An investigation is underway, according to a statement from VDOF.

“Today our hearts are broken as we send our sincere condolences to Rocky’s family, friends and fellow colleagues during this difficult time,” said State Forester Rob Farrell.

A Facebook post from the Town of Haysi, Virginia, where Wood was vice mayor and chief of the Haysi Volunteer Fire Department, also shared condolences. “We will strive to honor his memory and service,” the post reads, “though it’s hard to find the right words at this time. Please keep his family in your prayers as they navigate their grief.”

Prescribed fire near D.C.

Above: NPS photo by Nathan King

On April 6 firefighters conducted the first prescribed fire in Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts west of the District of Columbia. According to the National Park Service it was also the first prescribed fire in Fairfax County, Virginia. (UPDATE April 11, 2018: Katie said in a comment that Fairfax County Park Authority has  been conducting prescribed burns in Fairfax County for many years.)

Fire was introduced to the native meadow in order to help the indigenous vegetation flourish while helping to control non-native plants.

Wolf Trap National prescribed fire
NPS photo by Nathan King

The agencies assisting included Prince William Forest Park, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields National Military Park, and Fairfax County.

Wolf Trap National prescribed fire
NPS photo by Nathan King

The park is about 8 air miles west of the District of Columbia. It was created by legislation passed in 1966 “… for the performing arts and related educational programs, and for recreation use in connection therewith…”

One Foot in the Black Beer benefits WFF

A brewery in Virginia has developed a special beer that not only recognizes wildland firefighters but will help support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF). The One Foot in the Black beer is a smoked black IPA that was brewed to honor wildland firefighters. According to the Devils Backbone Brewing Company, it has “a smoky flavor that that interplays with the pine character of American hops”.

The name of the special brew comes from the advice to stay on the edge of the burned area on a wildland fire because usually it can be used as a safety zone. The beer was designed by brewer Erik Filep who himself is a wildland firefighter.

The company will donate 50 percent of the per pint and per growler sales to the WFF, a non-profit organization that assists wildland firefighters and the families of firefighters injured or killed while on the job.

This is not the first time a brewer has supported the WFF. In 2014 during the Coors Banquet “Protect Our West” program, the company contributed 25 cents to the WFF for every case of the beer sold in select states in the Western region throughout July and August, up to $250,000.

Coors Wildland Firefighter Foundation
TSN Advertising photo from 2014.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Pete.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Firefighters battling two fires in central Virginia

Above: Smoke from the Eades Hollow and Mount Pleasant Fires can be seen in a satellite photo taken Wednesday afternoon, November 23, 2016.

(Originally published at 5:55 p.m. ET November 23, 2016)

Two wildfires in central Virginia were very active on Wednesday, creating smoke that drifted northeast toward Washington, DC.

The Mount Pleasant Fire has burned 4,400 acres since it started November 19 10 miles northwest of Amherst, Virginia on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests within the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area. Wednesday morning 122 personnel were assigned, plus engines, dozers, three aircraft, and other resources that are en route. On Tuesday the fire grew by 1,689 acres. A Type 3 Incident Management Team from the Montana Department of Natural Resources has assumed command of the fire.

Mt. Pleasant Fire
Mt. Pleasant Fire. InciWeb photo.

The Eades Hollow Fire 16 miles northeast of Amherst has blackened 922 acres, growing by 422 acres on Tuesday.

Continue reading “Firefighters battling two fires in central Virginia”