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Brush fires ignite throughout the valley and Blue Ridge

Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office
Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office
A brush fire in Woodstock caused the temporary closure of Artz Road.

From the Virginia Department of Forestry - current information on the Virginia Department of Forestry's wildfire suppression activities https://virginiapro.firesponse.com/public/

UPDATE 7:25pm:
Page County Fire-EMS shared on their facebook page:

"Update on the fires in Page County from the VDOF (excluding E Rocky Branch fire)

Fire Size:
211 West – 2,000 acres
Shenandoah Forest – 120 acres
Serenity Ridge – 600 acres

o 211 West – 0 %
o Shenandoah Forest – 10%
o Serenity Ridge – 0%

Significant Events:
o Really good progress today
o Dozer lines established around communities"

UPDATE 7:00pm:
Page County Emergency Communication Center shared on their facebook page:

"Page County is monitoring multiple wildland fires in the areas of the Shenandoah Forrest subdivision, Massanutten Forrest subdivision, 211 West on New Market Mountain and E Rocky Branch Rd, Luray.

Resources are on scene from Virginia Department of Forestry and many counties throughout the state. Federal resources from the US Forest Service are managing the portion of the fire on the George Washington National Forest.

The VDOF is coordinating helicopters and airplane tanker operations to assist with airdrops of water onto the fire. The Shenandoah National Park (SNP) is managing the fire on E Rocky Branch Rd with support from local and state resources.

A shelter that was operated at Luray High School by the American Red Cross and Page County Department of Social Services will be demobilizing at 5:00 PM today, but will be on standby in anticipation of any changes. Currently, there are no residents sheltered at LHS.

We do not have an official count of damaged structures, or whether they are primary residences, cabins, or outbuildings but initial unconfirmed reports between 10-20 structures lost.

There are no reported injuries to citizens or personnel at this time."

UPDATE 2:28pm:
Page County Emergency Communication Center shared on their facebook page, that they will notify residents via CodeRed Reverse 911 and social media when local roads are reopened.

UPDATE 11:55am:
Shenandoah National Park has closed Skyline Drive from Thornton Gap (mile 31) to Mathews Arm (mile 22) due to the Rocky Branch Wildfire. The park has closed the hiking trails in those areas, and a park wide fire ban remains in effect. The Rocky Branch Wildfire fire started Wednesday afternoon. Firefighters are continuing suppression activities and establishing a fire line. National Park Service firefighters are working in partnership with Luray Fire Department and Virginia Department of Forestry. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Local and state agencies are responding to an outbreak of brush fires in our region. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

On Wednesday, the Department of Forestry responded to nearly 60 wildfires, most of them concentrated in the Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge, and central Virginia. Roughly half of those have been fully contained, but the largest ones are ongoing in Page County – where three fires have burned 600, 700, and 2,000 acres, respectively. Yesterday evening, residents were evacuated from the areas of Fort Valley, Serenity Ridge, and Egypt Bend roads, and parts of Route 211 remain closed as of Thursday morning.

Emergency shelters have been set up at Luray High School, North Fork Middle School in Quicksburg, Signal Knob Middle School in Strasburg, and the Strasburg Christian Church.

Cory Swift-Turner, communications specialist with the Department of Forestry, said yesterday's high winds and low relative humidity created prime wildfire conditions.

CORY SWIFT-TURNER: Those conditions dry out the fuels, like the dead leaves and other materials, and that allows wildfires to combust very easily. They're spread very quickly, they're propelled by those winds, and that can make them very hard to contain. We also see a lot, with those wind gusts that we had yesterday, that power lines are knocked down, and those can frequently be the cause of a wildfire. The wind will also knock over a dead tree onto a power line and we have that same situation.

Fires burning 100-200 acres in Albemarle and Louisa Counties also prompted evacuations yesterday. The rain in Saturday's forecast should help put out the blazes. The Department of Forestry asks residents to please refrain from burning anything outside until we get decent precipitation.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.