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Wildfire in Mon National Forest still burning after week of firefighting, rain


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Despite nearly one inch of rain and the efforts of 140 firefighters and a helicopter crew, a forest fire began its second week of charring the slopes of North Fork Mountain in the Monongahela National Forest in Grant County on Monday.

This photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a smoke column from a fire in the Monongahela National Forest over the weekend.
(Submitted photo)

According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Forest Service, the 198-acre fire was 30 percent contained after firefighters took advantage of Sunday’s high humidity and rain to complete a fire line along North Fork Mountain Trail, which follows the crest of its namesake mountain, on the eastern side of the blaze.

On Monday, firefighters focused their attention on assessing potential fire line sites on the steep, rocky terrain of the western side of the fire. An additional fire crew arrived on Monday to help scratch out a new western fire line.
Increased humidity from Sunday night rains ushered in by the remnants of Hurricane Nate could help firefighters contain more of the fire, although the expected arrival of winds gusting to 30 miles per hour could have the opposite effect, according to the Forest Service.

The cause of the fire, which broke out on Oct. 2, remains under investigation.

Located in a remote section of Grant County about 12 miles west of Petersburg, the fire has posed difficulties to those attempting to tame it due to its location in steep, roadless terrain with loose rocks and falling trees and snags.

Forest Service firefighters are being assisted by personnel from the West Virginia Division of Forestry, the Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department and the Grant County Sheriff’s office.

A large portion of Middle Mountain Trail, rated one of “America’s Best Day Hikes” in August by Backpacker magazine, is among areas closed to public use until the fire is contained. Also closed to public use is all Monongahela National Forest land in Grant County south and east of the North Fork of the Potomac River’s South Branch extending to Smoke Hole Road and the Pendleton County line. Forest Roads 742 and 214A are also closed, along with all of Redman Run Trail and Landis Trail.

A temporary flight restriction is in place for aircraft and drones in the vicinity of the fire, according to the Forest Service.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at [email protected], 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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