Efforts continue in containing a 1,500 acre fire in Pendleton County

FRANKLIN, W.Va. — Fire crews are still on the scene of a wildfire in Pendleton County that has been burning since Tuesday. It’s the second blaze reported in the area this week.

The first fire erupted in the Smoke Hole Canyon north of Upper Tract. It spread to about 83 acres before being contained Wednesday afternoon.

However, Pendleton County Emergency Management Coordinator, Rick Gillespie said the other fire, located just west of Franklin erupted before they barely had time to get the first completely extinguished.

This wildfire is much larger, reaching over 1,500 acres of land, and Gillespie said natural causes are making it more difficult to put out.

“It dies down at night which is the nature of fire, but everyday with the wind and the low humidity and dryness, it picks back up, so we’re still battling several hotspots on that one,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie said both fires were caused by fallen, dead trees, reaching heights of up to 100 feet that had grown outside of the trim zone. They caught some powerlines upon their fall which sparked the fire.

He said the fires are nothing new for the area, particularly the Smoke Hole region, as the placement of the short span of powerlines there have caused several issues in the past.

“The point of origin is in a deep, deep hollow and the powerlines are against the base of a mountain. The power company has cut the right-of-way back as far as they’re permitted to do, but the slopes are so steep that the tall trees outside of the trim zone fall on the lines,” he said.

Gillespie said they have already battled at least three fires in that area over the past couple of years.

He said there are still numerous fire crews from large portions of the state, along with some from Virginia and Maryland, and West Virginia Forestry personnel on the scene of the large fire just outside of Franklin. Gillespie expects operations to extinguish the blaze will be in effect throughout the weekend and hopes Saturday’s rain will help contain it.

“You know, other than it being a large fire it’s fairly typical operations of battling it until we get it out,” Gillespie said.

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