GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — According to National Park Service officials, a forest fire that has swept over more than 2,000 acres in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in southern West Virginia is now at 70 percent containment.
Known as the Steep Valley Fire, it continued to burn in the War Ridge and Backus Mountain areas in a remote part of the central park visible from overlooks at Grandview but some 15 miles distant from the iconic New River Gorge Bridge.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to Lorene Haynes, a spokesperson for the park service.
Haynes said the predicted drying trend has settled into the area reanimated the fire, and fire activity increased on Monday, which produced pockets of smoke in the fire area.
Smoke will be present within the gorge and could linger for a few days, she said, and the possibility of heavy smoke may limit visibility to the motoring public.
An air resource advisor is regularly monitoring smoke levels. Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects within 24 hours of exposure, she said.
Sixty-nine firefighters are actively engaged in the fire and will hold and improve existing fire lines as the warming and drying trend continues over the next several days.
During suppression efforts, firefighters make tactical decisions that include burning out pockets of fuel to help strengthen existing lines. On Monday, a helicopter dropped water on the eastern edge of the fire.
To date, there has been one minor injury to a firefighter, Haynes said.
A closure order is in place for all National Park Service lands bounded by the New River on the south and west to the town of Quinnimont, due east along WV-41 to the intersection of Backus-Red Spring road, then continues directly south to the railroad right of way at the river.
Haynes said the expansion of the closure order was implemented out of an abundance of caution for firefighter safety. The remainder of the park is open for regular hours of operation.
Should fire activity and conditions change, park management will reassess for any needs to adjust park operations.
Resources from multiple federal and state agencies nationwide and a private crew from Oregon have arrived to assist park personnel.
For more information, updates, and smoke and air quality reports, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident-information/wvnrp-steep-valley-fire.