By Clay Dubberly
The Rocky Mount Fire at Shenandoah National Park is now 75 percent contained, officials said Sunday. Over 350 volunteers from over 33 states gathered at the Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department to assist in efforts to quench the flames.
The fire has been declared the second largest in Shenandoah National Park History; the largest burning over 20,000 acres in 2000.
Operations on Sunday included aerial flights, where small spheres containing chemicals intended to put out the fire were dropped from hundreds of feet above ground.
Over 10,300 acres have been burned since the onset of the fire on Saturday, April 16.
A major contributing factor to the containment of the fire is the early rainfall and cloud cover that has taken place throughout the week.
Barb Stewart, an information officer for the fire response team said, “The conditions were such that there was no way that firefighters could go right up to that fire. It was in very rough Terrain.”
The aim of the operation was, according to park superintendent Jim Northup, was to manage the fire rather than directly engage it.
“When direct attack of a fire is unsafe, as it was in this case, fire managers have no choice but to revert to indirect attack – pulling back and selecting defensible locations (such as roads, natural barriers or constructed fire lines) where there is a reasonably good chance of safely stopping the fire,” Northup said.
The Appalachian Trail (mile 87.5) to Powell Gap (mile 70) and Swift Run Gap (mile 65.5) to Blackrock Gap remain closed.
Feature photo courtesy of whsv.com