Final Fire Report Issued As 85% Containment Reached For Shenandoah Neighbor Mountain Fire

Current Fire Mapfirefighter shenandoah

The Neighbor Mountain Fire boundary as reported earlier. This graphic shows fascinating detail of how the fire grew. A firefighter at the blaze. Both images by the National Park Service.

The final update on the Shenandoah National Park Neighbor Mountain Fire has been issued as containment reaches 85% and “many firefighters head home,” said Linda Friar, the fire's incident public information officer.

Two crews remain to assist the Park with the fire. Friar’s release said, “Later today the Southern Area Red Team will return command of the fire to the National Park Service at Shenandoah National Park who will manage the fire with a Type 3 incident management team.” A helicopter will survey the fire using infrared to identify hot spots for the remaining firefighters.

Friar said that all the firefighters “very much appreciate the support they have received from people in and around Luray, Page County and nearby communities.”

Still closed are the Knob Mountain Cutoff, Knob Mountain, Neighbor Mountain, and Jeremys Run trails.

The Byrd's Nest #4 Shelter, and the section of the Appalachian Trail between Elkwallow and Beahms Gap—both of which had been closed due to the Neighbor Mountain Fire—reopened last Friday at noon.

As the fire, and the costly efforts to put it out, come to an end, it offers a renewed opportunity to consider supporting the good work of the Shenandoah National Park Trust, one of the many essential "friends groups" helping parks around the country.

On Friday July 6th, Friar said, "crews will conduct mop up operations along the entire containment line. Rehabilitation of dozer lines, to reduce erosion potential, continues."

As a caveat to that, Friar added that, "the fire will continue to burn in some interior areas until significant precipitation is received over the fire area." Today she said thunderstorms were in the forecast.

In an earlier release, Friar explained that "Burnout Operations" are "highly planned events that ... use fire to eliminate burnable fuels between the main fire and the firelines. They are conducted in very strategic locations and are used only when current and predicted conditions are within acceptable limits. The procedure is extremely effective and used often to help contain wildland fires."

No structures are threatened and trail closures remain in place. The trails that are closed remain those put off limits two days ago and covered in an earlier Traveler article with additional photos. They are the Appalachian Trail between Elkwallow and Beahms Gap, as well as the Knob Mountain Cutoff, Knob Mountain, Neighbor Mountain, and Jeremys Run trails. The closure also includes the Byrd’s Nest #4 Shelter.

In addition to the fire, a severe thunderstorm last Friday night resulted in closures of the Skyline Drive in the north and south districts, but the latest report says the Drive continues completely open with park amenities functioning normally.

Shenandoah reports that the Southern Area Red Team, a Type 2 incident management team, has established a unified command with the Virginia Dept. of Forestry to manage the fire. Resources assigned to the fire include personnel from 25 states amd agencies including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Department of Forestry, and Mississippi Forestry Commission.

For ongoing information follow the park’s twitter and facebook sites – http://www.facebook.com/shenandoahnps and http://twitter.com/ShenandoahNPS.

Fire details can also be found on an "Incident" Website, then search Neighbor Mountain Fire.

Comments

Resident of Page,

First of all, I have nothing but the most highest regard for those protecting our Parks and those men and women on the fire lines!!!

I don't understand the slow reaction to this incident. What is the standard protocol and timing for response? When I first observed the fire -- weather conditions were very favorable and if air support was brought in from the start -- it would have been contained quite rapidly. I get the sense, based upon the slow reaction and promulgation of resources that the Dept of Interior and/or the NPS -- procrastinated, possibly due to funding or some other perceptions / priorities. All I know is, those charged with protecting and perserving our national parks are culpable for not starting it (which I was told caused by Lightning), but for the un-necessary destruction given the delays to execute with a good plan in a timely fashion. As one local told me, I cut have put that out with a bucket of water and a Bic lighter on DAY ONE!

PS: This is based upon past incidents such as the fires in the GW Forest.

Sincerely,

Bob

@Bob - I think they are not actively fighting the fire (only monitoring it) becasue it is in a wilderness area of a National Park, was ignited naturally (lightning), and no structures are at risk. Once it jumps the park boundary, I think you will see a much more concerted effort to fight the fire.

An update this morning (http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2967/) says the fire was started by lightning, and based on that report, it sounds like the fire is being actively fought. That report also notes that the "fire is burning in steep, rocky terrain."

With all due respects to Bob, it's a lot harder to get resources on fires in that kind of terrain as rapidly as the public might expect, and the specialized air support for fires we see on the TV news is simply not readily available everywhere for immediate use.

There are very few NPS personnel in most parks dedicated solely to fire duties; people aren't sitting around the fire station waiting for a call. They have to be pulled off other duties, sometimes from a considerable distance, or called back to work when a fire occurs, and that inevitably impacts response times.

Thanks for the feedback. Regarding the policy management of wildfires in WMA's, I did not know that. Not a Subject Matter Expert (SME) in this area. Thanks for the education. I may not be the only one needing educating in this regard. I think most folks think if there is a fire -- Lets extinguish it ASAP. ;-)

In regards to the resource constraints. I know the DOI/NPS is under tremendous pressures due to lack of funding. I don't understand the budgeting process for DOI -- But, you would think our representatives could have spent alittle more at home than abroad??? Especially, since most Americans are severely impacted economically right now and I am sure, NP visitation and other Domestic outdoor related activities will increase significantly.

FYI: My son was fortunate to get selected for the YCC this year! He is enjoying this Wonderful Opportunity.

Thanks Again, Good Luck & Stay Safe!

I am very fortunate to enjoy the scenic views of the SNP and GWNF from my home.

Regards,

Bob

Bob, I don't think there are very many air tankers -- if any -- in the eastern part of the U.S. Large fires aren't usually a problem in the more humid lands back there.

There's not particularly strong evidence that fixed-wing air tankers do much good in fighting wildland fires. Cynics think that they're more for show (spectacular video of planes droopping pink stuff).

Beyond that, flying aircraft through swirling air above and adjacent to fires is quite risky. Not only did 2 pilots die fighting the Utah fire in early June, but a C-130 crashed yesterday fighting the White Draw fire in South Dakota.

From the natural resources science perspective, there is pretty widespread agreement that the old FS "out by the next morning" fire suppression is bad for the forests & grasslands, and counter-productive in the long run because it increases fuel loads & the intensity of th eventual fire. [Of course, Aldo Leopold figured that out when he worked for FS and changed his attitude toward forest fires back in the 1930s.]

Fires are a natural part of nature. Really.

Has anyone been hiking in the GW forest? I was planning an excursion to the area but if it's very smokey/has lots of haze I may push my plans back. Thanks!

Anonymous, not sure how to answer your question. GW National Forest is huge, sprawls west of Shenandoah along Massanutten Mountain then beyond the Shenandoah Valley to the border of West Viginia; south from there and south of the park too along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unless you're going to be very close to Luray, I'd say you're probably OK...

We were on the Skyline Drive on Sunday and observed helicopters dropping water/chemicals on the fire.

Sorry, we will be hiking near the Storybook Trail in Luray (near the mountain pass to I-81). It appears to be on the other side of the valley from all the aforementioned "action." Thanks for the updates!

Anon,

There is a fire onthe national forest, some 15 miles north of the story book trail.

The fire in the national park is 15 miles east of your intended hike.

Smoke conditions are fine for hiking unless you are very near the fire, which your hike is not.

Enjoy your hike. But bring lots of water. Temps and humidity will be brutal

The town of Luray, and all it's attractions are open. If you are coming into town from DC by route 211, you will see the fire to the North as you come into the valley. You can see nature doing it's thing and you can give thanks to those brave souls who are working in this heat to keep it in check. There is no smoke in the town and the visit is quite enjoyable. From the Caverns you can see the smoke from the Neighbor Mountain fire in the far distance but it has no impact on the tourist trade at all. Once again, thanks to those who are working the fire and protecting life and property.