Fire races across 1,200 forest acres on Potts Mountain
CRAIG COUNTY – A wildfire threatening more than 1,200 acres of National Forest land in Craig County near the border of Craig, Alleghany and Botetourt raged on Tuesday, after the entire state of Virginia had been declared under a “red flag warning” because of high fire danger from dry conditions and wind.
According to Barbara Walker of the Eastern Divide Ranger District that covers Craig County and who was working out of the New Castle Work Center, “a Type 1 Southern Region Incident Management Team” took control of the fire Tuesday.
She explained a collection of firefighters, many of them from the Eastern Divide, who work together regularly when fires are big enough or there are multiple fires.
“They know each other so they can hit the ground running when they get there,” Walker added. About 20 percent of the fire had been contained by Tuesday morning, said Walker, and that the Barbours Creek Fire would be managed as part of the Easter Complex that includes several fires in western Virginia.
The fire in Craig was first reported about 4:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, April 7. Forestry officials said it appeared to have started on the Potts Mountain Jeep Trail and said it came from “human causes.” By Monday afternoon the fire was near Pines Campground and reported going over Potts Mountain. The area is about 15 miles north of New Castle.
“We can see it at a distance,” said Marilyn Barnes Monday afternoon. She and husband Charlie Barnes live on Barbour’s Creek.
Monday shortly before noon, Jo Beth Brown of the Forest Service office in Roanoke said 36 firefighters including the Augusta “hotshot” crew and a contract helicopter with a water bucket were assigned to fight the fire.
The Potts Mountain Jeep Trail was closed, and later, the Pines Campground. Firefighters used the trail as the containment line, Walker said, and old logging roads were cleared with a bulldozer on the northern perimeter.
Firefighters from the Eastern Divide Ranger District, the Virginia Department of Forestry and Boiling Springs Volunteer Fire Department were fighting the fire over the weekend and on Monday.
Winds from the northwest at 15 to 20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph that afternoon, handicapping firefighters’ efforts. Tuesday’s winds were estimated to be between 8 and 15 mph.
The Forest Service said four houses located about one-half mile northeast of the fire were in Alleghany County where firefighting efforts were concentrated Tuesday. That was later updated to 10 houses.