Foresters take charge of containment of 100-acre Sleepy Creek Mountain fire – The Morgan Messenger


by Kate Shunney and Kate Evans

On Tuesday morning, West Virginia Forestry crews were still working to contain a fire they say has burned about 70 acres on Sleepy Creek Mountain, much of it in the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Deputy State Fire Forester Jeremy Jones said regional forestry crews were on Sleepy Creek Mountain using hand tools and leaf blowers to remove fuel from a reported fire for the first time shortly after 2 p.m. on Monday, March 21.

“We expect more favorable conditions today,” Jones said of the weather forecast calling for higher humidity.

Jones said the blaze was 50% contained Monday night when fire command was transferred from Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company deputy chief Chris Sipe to the Forestry Division.

Sipe led fire crews from four states to battle the blaze, which was first reported on a private road connected to Mountain Run Road.

As of Tuesday morning, the fire was still visibly moving through this area. Local fire crews have been called back to the mountain to help deal with the large blaze.

Brushing devices and other fire resources were staged Monday afternoon and evening atop Sleepy Creek Mountain in the White’s Gap public access area and other locations.

Brushing equipment was needed for the rough terrain, and before dark at least one helicopter was seen hovering over the fire area to assess the situation.

The fire on Sleepy Creek Mountain was a line of orange flames on Monday evening March 21. photo by Kristopher Krenze

Sabrena Funk took this photo of the mountain fire on Sleepy Creek on Monday night. The white glow to the right of the fire is at White’s Gap, where firefighters were staged.

Flames were still moving across Sleepy Creek Mountain Tuesday morning as the mountain fire fed on dry leaves and downed trees. photo of Kate Shunney

On Tuesday, March 22, thick smoke billowed along Sleepy Creek Mountain as a Monday Mountain Fire continued to burn. photo of Kate Shunney

On Monday, fire equipment was staged at White’s Gap atop Sleepy Creek Mountain. photo by Stefanie Allemong

By sunset Monday, the fire had grown to at least 50 acres and was moving up the mountain and south, a public official said at a staging site in the 22,000-acre wildlife management area. .

Locals captured photos of the blaze moving from a single smoky spot to a blazing orange line of fire as night fell.

Members of the public said they could see smoke from the mountain fire as far away as Ranson, Jefferson County.

Public safety officials reportedly went door to door in the immediate area of ​​the fire to contact owners and residents.

Properties near the blaze appeared unaffected by the blaze on Tuesday morning, but thick smoke filled the area near the blaze which is still burning.

The Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area is almost completely forested in the affected area, covered mostly with mature hardwoods. There are few passable roads that provide access to public lands, which straddle the Morgan and Berkeley county lines.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Forestry Division, Jones said. Their priority on Tuesday was to completely contain the fire.

Forestry crews and local fire crews do not have the resources to bring in large amounts of water or perform aerial fire suppression drops, Jones said. Instead, ground crews are working to remove the layer of leaves and downed trees that are fueling the fire’s spread.

Jones said he’s seen comments that mountain fires can benefit natural areas.

” It is not the case at all. It’s not beneficial when a fire happens this way,” he said.

Foresters typically do no restoration after a fire, Jones said. The Division of Natural Resources (DNR), which manages mountain land as a wildlife management area, may choose to return to the area to repair damage, depending on its wildlife priorities.

According to the DNR, Sleepy Creek Mountain was historically the site of several wildfires in the first half of the 20and century after clearcutting. The largest of these fires burned in 1942, the fire burning down to mineral soil. The area became a state forest and public hunting area in 1951.


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