July 8, 2008

Rain Helps Fight Botetourt Co. Fire

By Sarah Bruyn Jones

Rain on Friday night helped to slow the wildfire in Botetourt County that has burned more than 500 acres.

Chris Rose, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said the half-inch of rain helped as 69 people continue to battle the blaze that was first reported Thursday.

"There doesn't seem to be as much smoke on the mountain this morning," Rose said Saturday. "It's not contained yet, but we are working on it. ... We are making a lot of progress."

The fire is burning two miles east of Buchanan on Cove Mountain in the Jefferson National Forest. Rose said it could take days to contain it.

"We got the rain, but it was only half an inch so things can continue to smolder," he said.

Crews are continuing to construct a fire line around the blaze, Rose said.

Officials believe the fire was ignited by lightning, but Rose said the cause of the fire won't be determined until after the fire is out and investigators can take a closer look.

The Appalachian Trail from Bear Wallow Gap to Jennings Creek is closed because of the fire. Little Cove Mountain Trail and the Glenwood Horse Trail from Virginia 43 to Virginia 618 also are closed. Dispersed camping is closed at Harkening Hill on McFalls Creek Road-Forest Development Road 3068.

While the road has not been closed, officials urge the public to avoid Virginia 43 from Buchanan to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"Not only do you have smoke, but you've got a lot of cloud and fog, so it just makes it really hazardous to travel," Rose said.

-- Sarah Bruyn Jones

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