Forest fire burning southeast of New River Gorge Bridge

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Smoke wreaths Idol Point, New River Gorge, New River Gorge National River
Smoke wreaths Idol Point

UPDATE (9:47 a.m., 4-24-2014): The fire that swept the wall of the New River Gorge southeast of the New River Gorge Bridge was 90 percent contained as of 9 a.m. Thursday morning, according to ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk of the National Park Service. Based on the weather forecast and continued suppression efforts, she said, full containment is expected Friday.

“There are a couple of spots that continue to burn and put up smoke, but they are within the interior of the burn area and pose little to no threat of escaping the containment lines.”

On Wednesday, firefighters worked with CSX to identify and remove any hazardous trees that could potentially fall on railroad tracks. Park Service staff and the Cumberland Gap Wildland Fire Module will continue to manage fire-line construction, monitored hot spots, and continued the mop-up process, she said.

The Endless Wall Trail, which follows the cliffline along the rim of the gorge above the burn area, will remains closed to public use while crews continue to assess and mitigate safety hazards.

UPDATE (8:04 p.m., 4-22-2014): A fire that has spread along the wall of the New River Gorge southeast of its legendary bridge will likely cause no lasting damage, according to a spokesman for the National Park Service.

Ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk reported Tuesday evening that a National Park Service specialiist found that mortality among mature trees is likely to be low and that the impact will hardly be notiiceable within a few months.

“Ecological impacts will be assessed over time, but this was a surface fire that removed the leaf litter. Fire behavior was low to moderate and soil moistures are high. Average char heights are approximately five feet,” she said.

Mark Taylor, a regional fuels management specialist employed by the park service, found that no impacts will be evident once green-up occurs, Perkowski-Sisk said.

“Mortality in mature trees likely to be low. Smaller trees and shrubs likely top-killed, but will regenerate. Nutrients from the ash often cause a flush of new growth in the subsequent years soon after a fire. Hemlocks and white pines likely took the most damage, as thin bark and sensitive to fire.”

No known cultural resources were located within the perimeter of the fire, she said.

UPDATE (11:51 a.m., 4-22-2014): Firefighters on Tuesday were clearing a fire line to contain a fire that had spread across nearly 130 acres above the New River in southern West Virginia, according to ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk of the National Park Service. Firefighters there have been joined by members of the nearby Mount Hope Fire Department and the Midewin Hot Shots, an inter-agency wildland firefighting crew hosted by the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington, Illinois. Cloudiness and higher humidity are helping firefighters battle the blaze.

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Dramatic terrain and low relative humidy have conspired to feed a forest fire that inflamed Sunday on the flank of the New River Gorge southeast of the world-famous New River Gorge Bridge.

A crew of 14 wildland firefighters employed by the National Park Service are battling the blaze, which is currently estimated to have spread across 15 to 20 acres, according to Robin Snyder, a spokesman for the New River Gorge National River.

“The NPS crew is reassessing the tactic for direct attack on the fire, as the terrain is treacherous and steep, and the relative humidity is at 21 percent,” Snyder reported in a Monday afternoon press release.

“These factors along with an upslope wind are causing spot fires and embers to fall across the fire line that firefighters cut to break the fire spread. NPS is calling in additional resources and crews to contain the fire.”

Snyder said that at approximately 11:15 p.m. Sunday rangers were alerted to the fire by the Fayette County dispatch. From midnight until 4:45 a.m., rangers and members of the Fayetteville and Nuttall fire department members fought the fire.

The fire is located off of Lansing-Edmond Road, along popular rock-climbing access areas along the Endless Wall Trail southeast of the New River Gorge Bridge and northwest of Beauty Mountain. The trail and climbing areas there will be closed from the Fern Creek Parking Area to Diamond Point. Climbing until further notice, according to Snyder. The source of the fire is under investigation, she reported.

Photo courtesy Jay Young and Adventures on the Gorge