GLEN JEAN, WV (WVNS) — The Steep Valley Fire is now up to 2,028 acres, and is 70 percent contained as of Monday evening, November 13, 2023.
The fire is burning in the remote War Ridge and Backus Mountain areas of the park in steep, rugged, and inaccessible terrain, and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Fire activity in the area was reignited by the predicted drying trend that settled in the area. On Monday, November 13, 2023, fire activity increased, causing pockets of smoke in the fire area. Because of the increased fire activity, there will be smoke in the gorge that may remain for a few days.
Visibility for drivers may be limited due to the possibility of heavy smoke from the fire, and smoke levels are being regularly monitored by an air resource advisor. With the possibility of more smoke in the area, the smoke could cause health issues within 24 hours for people with health issues such as asthma.
As of Tuesday, November 14, 2023, there were 69 firefighters engaged with the fire, and crews will focus on holding and improving the fire lines in the upcoming days as the drying and warming trend continues. Firefighters will make tactical decisions during suppression efforts that include strengthening existing fire lines by burning out pockets of fuel. A helicopter was used to help firefighting operations with water bucket drops on the eastern edge of the fire on Monday, November 13, 2023. The safety of firefighters is a top priority, and so far there has only been one minor injury to a firefighter.
There is still a closure order for all of the National Park Service lands bounded by the New River on the south and west to the town of Quinnimont, due east along State Highway 41 to the intersection of Backus-Red Spring road, then continues directly south to the CSX railroad right of way at the river. The closure order expansion was due to caution for the firefighters’ safety. The rest of the park is still open for the normal hours of operation, however if the fire activity and conditions change, any adjustments to park operations will be decided by park management.
Multiple resources from federal and state agencies, including a crew from Oregon, are helping New River Gorge Park and Preserve personnel.
More information including smoke outlook and air quality reports can be found here.
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