CHARLESTON — After several days of battling the blaze, the West Virginia Division of Forestry declared the South Mill Creek fire in “patrol status” as of Sunday, August 15.
“Patrol status” means no active fire threatens to get out of control, although smoke and hot spots may be visible.
Firefighters will continue to monitor the area as a precaution.
Crews began battling the brush fire on Wednesday, Aug. 11, when it was ignited by lightning. A local landowner witnessed the strike and called the authorities. The call led to a quick response by WV DOF personnel and local volunteer fire departments.
Steep slopes with 50% grade and terrain strewn with house-sized boulders prevented the crews from reaching the area with vehicles. The inaccessibility, coupled with heat indexes above 100 degrees, made the fire dangerous and difficult to control.
Crews tried to extinguish the fire directly with water for the first two days. The ground was so dry that the fire burned deep into the duff layer, following the roots underground and outside of the containment area. On the third day of attack, the crews changed tactics to fight the fire indirectly by falling back to using wood roads as fireline and backfiring to remove the fuel between the fireline and the main fire.
Approximately 75 acres burned within the 500-acre fire perimeter.
No homes or structures were impacted by the fire. Most of the fire burned with low to moderate intensity, which can be beneficial to wildlife, oak regeneration and to fire-adapted species. On this burn, Table Mountain pine, pitch pine, mountain laurel, blueberries and huckleberry are expected to benefit.