NEW RIVER GORGE, W.Va. — The forest fire in the New River Gorge National River in Fayette County has grown to 130 acres.
The U.S. Park Service said an Illinois-based firefighter crew joined the efforts Tuesday. A 20-member team from Midewin Interagency Hot Shot Crew built a fire line.
The National Park Service and Mount Hope firefighters are also helping with the effort.
Before last week, Boone County Forester Charlie Spencer said it had been a fairly quiet forest fire season. But when the weather became consistently warmer with a breeze and low humidity, it all changed.
“In Boone County in just the last week, we’ve probably had more than a thousand acres burn,” said Spencer. “Before that we only had probably 200 acres in the whole season.”
Spencer said the weather was only part of the problem. The real catalyst for the jump in acreage was the cause. Out of seven fires in the past week, six were set deliberately.
“The previous fires were small debris fires where the fire got out and the fire department got there quickly,” said Spencer. “When you get into the arson situation, those are often set out in the woodlands where it’s a lot harder to contain.”
Tuesday’s rain was welcome relief to Spencer and his crew, but it’s not nearly enough for the threat to be completely eliminated.
“You could get an inch of rain today, and with the leaves off the trees like they are now, if you get 70 degrees and wind we could have fire by tomorrow evening,” he said. “It doesn’t take long at all.”
There have been approximately 617 brush fires this year in West Virginia burning 7,500 acres.