UPPER TRACT, W.Va. — More than 4 dozen volunteer firefighters from Pendleton, Grant and Hardy counties have worked nonstop to keep the flames from the North Mountain Wildfire in the Monongahela National Forest away from homeowners.

The fire, which began near Upper Tract Sunday, had covered about 1,500 hundred acres by Wednesday afternoon.

Due to the fire, the U.S. Forest Service issued an emergency closure order late Wednesday for the area around the Smoke Hole Fire. The order is in effect for 120 days or until the termination of the order by the U.S. Forest Service.

All people are forbidden to enter the National Forest Lands located within the closure zones, unless otherwise authorized to do so by the U.S. Forest Service. The following areas are closed:

Redman Run Trail (#507) from the North Fork Mountain Trail (#501) to Smoke Hole Road (Grant County Road 23). National Forest System Lands (NFS) in Pendleton County between Highway 28/55, Pendleton County Road 23 to Eagle Rock. NFS lands north of Dry Hollow Creek. At the end of Dry Hollow Creek to the northeast boundary of Seneca Rocks Area. NFS land and Seneca Rocks Area boundary to the northwest boundary of NFS lands and Seneca Rocks on the Cheat/Potomac Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest. Forest Road 79 is also closed to the public.

Upper Tract Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Alt said the efforts of volunteer firefighters have been successful.

“The guys and the girls have done a great job with the volunteer fire departments here to sustain it where we have it now,” Chief Alt told MetroNews.

Those crews worked all day Tuesday and into Tuesday night to keep the flames away from a home in Smoke Hole. Alt said the wildfire was only a few hundred feet away.

“We were able to put fire lines around that particular residential area and so far it’s held. I believe we have that pretty well secured,” Alt said.

The volunteer firefighters were the first to begin fighting the blaze Sunday. They’ve now been joined by crews from the U.S. Forest Service. Alt said the terrain in the area of Smoke Hole and the backside of Seneca Rocks is very challenging.

“We’re talking about rock cliffs, unstable terrain with rocks, downed timbers, the terrain in some places is 90 degrees in elevation,” Alt said.

The chief said it could take until Monday for the Forest Service to have the flames under control. Agency spokesman Bob Beanblossom confirmed that on MetroNews Talkline Wednesday.

“This will be a long-term event,” he said. “It is not threatening any structures at this time.  However, we do have personnel in place that are carefully monitoring any changes in fire behavior.”

As of Wednesday morning, Beanblossom said the fire was 20 percent contained, but more firefighting personnel and equipment, including a helicopter and bulldozers, to fight the flames were being moved along the fire lines throughout the day Wednesday.

More than 80 firefighters and forestry workers, from West Virginia and several other states, were helping with firefighting efforts.  Crews have moved into the Mountain State from Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Tennessee to join local volunteer firefighters from Franklin, Seneca Rocks, Upper Tract and Petersburg.

On Wednesday, the goal was for crews to hold and improve the existing fire line, build new line and go directly at the fire, where it was safe.

“We still will make good progress over the next few days despite the extremely dry conditions,” Beanblossom predicted.  The firefighters are working in cold temperatures and tough terrain.  “We just have to go a little slower and be a little safer in what we do.”

He said some precipitation, earlier this week, would have helped.  “We did not receive the snow that fell over much of West Virginia,” he said Wednesday following a system that put down rain and snow in other areas.

Chief Alt said local residents hope most of the forest reopens before deer hunting season later this month. He said eventually the forest may benefit from the fire.

“If that extends into the hunting season coming up in a couple weeks it will have substantial impact in the area,” the chief predicted. “But in the future though–it’s like any other controlled area–we’ll probably get some better wildlife, better undergrowth and so forth, so in the next couple years there will be some real good areas to be into.”

A management officer with the Monongahela National Forest said the wildfire is the largest in the Monongahela National Forest since the 1940s and 1950s.

One firefighter injury has been reported.

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  • Ed Fischer

    We had 53 fire fighters come to the North Fork Mountain Inn on Saturday night to enjoy a nice hot meal. It was our way of saying thanks and giving back for all their heroic efforts. They were very grateful.

  • ConservativeRealist

    Many thanks to the volunteer firefighters who do a thankless job for free saving the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

  • Neddie

    This fire didn't happened because of a tree on the power line. It happened because a guy was burning brush legal n it got away from him and he didn't call it in until it was a mile away because he didn't want to get caught. How I know this is because I live in maysville and it came over the scanner Sunday afternoon. So besides blaming everyone else blame the guy that was burning legal. Obama didn't have anything to do with the fire because he don't like the state of West Virginia he won't even come to our state. And plus half of this comments are ridiculous like " let it burn". There are people that live up there where the fire is and there's teachers in Petersburg high school that are praying that it don't go to a teachers house because she don't want to lose everything she has. A lot of people say that they will have it gone by like tonight it's gonna take a long time to get it out because of all the rocks that's up there. Just stop commenting stupid stuff about the fire. You should be PRAYING for all the firefighter that are recking their lives since Sunday. I've been praying everyday since it happened because there's a lot of people up there including my old teacher I had. I hope everyone up there makes it out save to make it home to their families n live another day.

    • Larry

      He was burning legal but stupid, any time it's that dry and windy you shouldn't be burning, even if you're not breaking the law.

      • Desperate

        He was not legally burning-- you can burn only after 5pm this time of year. I was in the Smoke Hole that day-- way too windy to burn anyway.

        • Larry

          I'll take your word for it, I certainly don't know what time this individual was burning, but when it is very dry and windy noone should be burning regardless of the legal burning hours.

          • desperate

            Since I don't consider 5pm afternoon, I assume it was earlier than that. The fire season information is posted on the Div of Forestry's website....where it also mentions to not burn when it's windy and dry.

  • garth

    Obama said it is Bush's fault...

    • Berry

      Alright. Who's using my line?

      • June

        @ Berry, Why do you always have to bring Obama into the mix. After he gets the health care fixed, he will come over and singlehandedly put this fire out.

    • Truth

      Grow up

  • William

    I blame that black shirt wearing Holgorsen and his boss Oliver.

  • lee arthur

    forest fires are a blessing for the forest.

  • JJ

    Smokey Bear has done too good of a job!! As long as no one or their property is in serious danger.......let it burn!! Read the article by Chris Lawrence to see why!!

  • me

    Nice ad plug

  • Moe's Jo

    Gives new meaning to Smoke Hole Canyon and Caverns.

  • ed

    Dry weather , just guessing (not a sceptic)

  • jeff wisdom

    Global warming, just guessing.

  • Ed Fischer

    As owner of the North Fork Mountain Inn in nearby Grant County, Carol and I are grateful for all the efforts to contain this fire. Since I am away from the Inn traveling in Michigan and Pennsylvania with the Vice Chancellor of Africa International University, I feel somewhat powerless to do much. Thus I am resigned to pray that the fire will be brought under control. The Monongahela National Forest is a great treasure that should be preserved. Many of our guests that come to visit from the Washington DC and Northern Virginia area hike the North Fork Mountain trail accessing it directly from our Inn. Our website is www.northforkmtninn.com.

    • Ronin

      One- you're a poser who is also a scumbag for using a discussion site to promote you high-end B&B.

      Two- please stop leaving handfuls of your pamphlets and wine corks in your "geo stash" on the North Fork. It takes away from the experiences of other forest user, as well as requiring extra time and effort to pack all that out and throw it ALL away, every time I find it.... but I'll keep doing so for as long as you are polluting.

      (That's what they called it when I was a kid and someone left trash on land they didn't own).

      • Desperate

        I'm glad I'm not the only person who thinks that's littering.

    • desperate

      I would tell the Vice Chancellor "see ya" and go back home.

    • Gilbert Gnarley

      What the blazes is an "Africa International University"?

      Shame that this hillbilly couldn't join Ed and the Vice Chancellor for high tea in Meeshegan and the Commonwealth but my Volvo is in the shop.

      • Harpers Ferry

        It's located near Negro Mountain in Maryland.

      • David Kennedy

        Hear! Hear!

    • WVWho

      Really? a plug period, but on a story like this?

    • thornton

      Odd place for an advertisement.....or, sadly, not so odd.

      • Barryb

        Very tacky, cheap move. I own a second home in the area of the fire. I won't be referring any business his way.

        • Shadow

          Since it is a second home, you won't be inconvenienced if it burns. He will lose his livelihood. Never the less, I wish you both well.

          PS From the looks of his website, you won't be doing your friends any great favor by not mentioning his inn. It looks like a nice place.