A wildfire that started on private land has spread across some 2,000 acres in Shenandoah National Park, forcing closure of a stretch of Skyline Drive and hiking trails in the park.
Strong gusting winds initially stoked the fire, which started of some unknown cause on private land just west of the park Saturday. Once the flames reached the park, they quickly fed on hardwood leaf litter and downed trees, park officials said today.
The "Smith Run Fire" was burning near Jenkins Gap near milepost 12 on both sides of Skyline Drive, park spokeswoman Karen Beck-Herzog said this afternoon from her office. For public safety and to help fire crews, the scenic drive was closed to traffic between Front Royal, Virginia, and Route 211, she said.
The following trail closures were in effect until further notice: Mt. Marshall Trail from Skyline Drive to the intersection at the Bluff Trail; Appalachian Trail between Compton Gap and the Browntown Trail; Lands Run Gap Fire Road; and the Jenkins Gap Trail.
The rest of the park, including the Skyline Drive from Thornton Gap (Rt. 211) south to Rockfish Gap (Rt. 250), remained open.
No park structures were threatened by the flames, according to Ms. Beck-Herzog.
Roughly 70 firefighters -- a mix of National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Virginia state and local personnel -- were on the fire lines today, and another 60 had been ordered, Ms. Beck-Herzog said, although she didn't know when they might arrive.