Mechanical thinning helps control brushfires

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FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WVNS)– The 132-acre fire at the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is now fully contained and slowly burning out.  The extent of the fire could have been greater if not for a process called mechanical thinning. 

The historic Nuttalburg Headhouse and Conveyor were untouched by the flames due to a process called mechanical thinning. This process is when leaves, underbrush, and dead logs are cleared out in an effort to prevent fires from getting out of control before they happen.

“So, if you get a big fire coming through the forest, when it gets to that point it’s going to drop down and not do as much damage because there’s not as much there to burn,” New River Gorge District Supervisor Dave Bieri said.

Mechanical thinning is done throughout heavily wooded areas of the national parks on a consistent and as-needed basis.  

“We do that at historic structures, as well as any structure,” Bieri added.  “Here at the Canyon Rim Visitors Center we just did mechanical thinning a few months ago around it.”

However, in some cases mechanical thinning is not enough, and controlled burns are actually prescribed to help clear out overgrown areas naturally. 

“This is something that we do in the parks sometimes,” Bieri told us. “We do prescribe burns just to get rid of those fuels that build up. The more it builds up, the more catastrophic a fire you’re going to have because there’s so much more to burn.”

The team at the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve was planning on clearing more out under and around the Nuttalburg Conveyor in the coming weeks but say the fire has now taken care of most of that.

All trails and climbing areas within the park are now open.

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