Firefighters battling a nearly 2,000-acre wildfire in Shenandoah National Park were confronted Monday by steep, rugged terrain littered with highly flammable forest duff and broken in places by cliffs.
While higher humidity and a chance of precipitation were in the forecast, fire bosses estimated containment of the 1,803-acre blaze was only at 15 percent.
"We've got a little bit better humidity, we're expecting a little precipitation, which should be helpful," said park spokeswoman Karen Beck-Herzog.
The fire, initially called the "Smith Run Fire," started Saturday morning on private land to the west of the park. Gusting winds quickly spread the flames into the park with its heavy load of fuels.
While park officials had initially been working with state and local officials in managing the fire, on Monday control was given over to a "Type I" incident management team of fire-fighting professionals from a mix of state and federal agencies and renamed the "Valley Complex" as the team also was confronting three fires burning on the neighboring George Washington and Jefferson National Forest: the Pickle Branch Fire (325 acres) and the Coffman and Chestnut Ridge fires (approximately 2,700 acres together).
Monday's plan was for the 70 or so firefighters on the ground to concentrate on burning out fuels within what containment lines had been established the past two days, according to Ms. Beck-Herzog. With the fire still actively burning, Skyline Drive between Front Royal and Route 211 remained closed to the general public Monday, and the Mt. Marshall Trail from Skyline Drive to the intersection at the Bluff Trail; the Appalachian Trail between Compton Gap and the Browntown Trail; Lands Run Gap Fire Road; and the Jenkins Gap Trail all were closed as well.
While rain and possibly snow were in the day's forecast, official didn't expect that precipitation to douse the fire.
No structures within park boundaries were being threatened, according to a park release. Outside of Shenandoah, Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Rappahannock County Volunteer Fire Departments, and Virginia Department of Forestry were working to provide structural fire protection on private property.