Firefighters Head Home From Goshen

By: 
Darryl Woodson

WEDNESDAY, 2 P.M. - All crews and command staff have been demobilized from the Goshen Pass fire as of noon today.  The Goshen Pass fire is at 100 percent containment, reports Karen Stanley with the Virginia Department of Forestry.  Final acreage total is 3,100 acres of burned area.  More significant rain fell on the fire area overnight and into the morning. 

The Goshen Pass fire has been turned back over to the local Department of Forestry personnel.  Rehabilitation of the firelines made by hand crews and bulldozers will start this week to help prevent soil erosion.  The Department of Forestry and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will be handling the rehab operation.  Water diversion structures will help divert stormwater off the trails and back out into the forest.  Grass seed on the trails will stabilize the soil.  When these trails are properly stabilized, they will be available if another fire occurs in the area in the future.

Route 39 is fully open to the public.  The Goshen Wildlife Management Area roads are also re-opened to the public today.  These roads include Laurel Run, Guys Run and Bratton Mountain Road.  Drivers and hunters are reminded to be aware of changes in the roads from heavier traffic and also the potential for more unstable and falling snags in this part of the Wildlife Management Area.

An arson reward has been authorized by the state forester, Bettina Ring, of up to $2,000 for information that leads to the conviction of an arsonist.  Investigators are in the area to follow up on leads. 

Several state agencies worked in cooperation for this fire.  Besides the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Department of Transportation provided signs, personnel for road closures and traffic control and a crew to deal with fallen snags in the road.  The Chief of Fire and Rescue for Rockbridge County, Nathan Ramsey, was available for assistance throughout the incident.  And Dominion Power was available as well to keep the firefighters and the transmission lines safe from electrical hazards.

Additionally, a very special thank you to the local volunteer fire departments and rescue squads for providing suppression and medical support as needed, and to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for providing radio communications support.  And to the National Capital Area Boy Scouts of America and the Goshen Scout Reservation for the generous use of their facilities for the staging and incident command post during the entire fire.

McDonald’s and Wendy’s in Lexington have kindly donated over $1,500 in meals to the firefighters, and the Goshen Scout Reservation has provided space for the equipment and personnel staging. The Best Western, Applebee’s, Country Cookin’, Walmart, Ruby Tuesday’s and Hardees in Lexington also have been instrumental in the care of the firefighters involved in this incident.  A special thank you goes out to the Goshen General Store for operating outside of their normal hours to provide lunch to the firefighters over the weekend and especially Easter Sunday.  Devil’s Backbone provided lunches today for the crews and overhead.  Additionally our firefighters are grateful for the water and ice donations that have been coming in from local community members and businesses, such as Sheetz and the VVOTC.

  

TUESDAY - Officials with the Virgina Department of Forestry are now saying that the Goshen fire is 90 percent contained.

 

SUNDAY, 8 P.M. - Officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry reported more progress in the Goshen fire by late Sunday.

Increased wind, low relative humidity and warm temperatures increased fire behavior today somewhat. Though the containment efforts firefighters battled to complete yesterday were threatened, the westerly winds helped in reducing spot fires by depositing firebrands into previously burned areas. Additionally, a late afternoon shower gave firefighters a much needed break. Two contracted helicopters made water drops into the early afternoon. The fire is believed to be 80 percent contained at this time.

Crews from the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries began work just after sunrise to continue battling the blaze and have made good progress with containment line construction.  While no significant flame lengths were reported from the line, the fire broke containment twice today. Hard work from hand crews and helicopter water drops caught and controlled these two situations quickly and efficiently.

 Relative humidity levels remained between 30 and 40 percent with temperatures in the low 80s, but firefighters stayed hydrated and no heat injuries were reported. Because of the proficiency of the VDOF mechanic on scene, all three dozers were repaired and put back into operation today. Firefighter safety continues to be the number one priority on this incident, with situational awareness being the key to avoiding and mitigating the numerous hazards associated with fighting wildfire in steep terrain. Due to numerous sightings, firefighters have also been instructed to watch for venomous snakes, bears and ticks.

Route 39 remains open, but many forest roads and trail continue to be closed to the public. These include, but are not limited to, Bratton Mountain Road, Guy Run and Laurel Run.  Area residents and people who will be driving through the area are reminded that smoke may be present for several days and that smoke can reduce visibility on the two-lane, windy road.  Drivers should continue to exercise caution and maintain safe speeds when in the area.   

Resources on site: 60 personnel from VDOF and DGIF. 

The fire has burned close to 3,000 acres since it began Monday. The containment lines currently under construction cover an area of approximately 4,000 acres, with planned contingency lines that could increase the acreage to approximately 7400 acres. 

The fire is burning on the 30,000-acre Goshen Wildlife Management Area. No homes or structures are threatened at this time.

The fire is burning mostly leaf litter and downed trees in an area that is mostly hardwoods, mountain laurel and some spotty pine. 

The terrain is very steep (70% slope) and rocky; and most of the fire line construction is being done by crews using hand tools, such as leaf blowers, rakes and a tool called a Pulaski.  Six dozers are on scene today along with three engines. The additional brush trucks and VDOF personnel from the central and eastern regions of Virginia have been instrumental in helping to ensure the excellence of fireline operations.

McDonald’s and Wendy’s in Lexington have kindly donated over $1,500 in meals to the firefighters, and the Goshen Scout Reservation has provided space for the equipment and personnel staging. The Best Western, Applebee’s and Hardees in Lexington also have been instrumental in the care of the firefighters involved in this incident.  A special thank you goes out to the Goshen General Store for operating outside of their normal hours to provide lunch to the firefighters over the weekend and especially Easter Sunday. Additionally our firefighters are grateful for the water and ice donations that have been coming in from local community members and businesses, such as Sheetz and the VVOTC.

Additionally, a very special thank you to the local volunteer fire departments and rescue squads for providing suppression and medical support as needed, and to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management for providing radio communications support.

  

 

SATURDAY, 6 P.M. - Crews fighting the fire in Goshen Pass made some good  progress today, according to the late afternoon update released by the Virginia Department of Forestry. The following is the release.

Due to increased humidity, fire behavior today has lessened somewhat which has given firefighters the opportunity to make significant headway with containment efforts.  Two contracted helicopters made numerous water drops into the early afternoon. The fire is now believed to be 70 percent contained.

Crews from the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries began work just after sunrise to continue battling the blaze and are making good progress on the new containment lines started yesterday.  While no significant flame lengths were reported from the line, the fire broke containment twice. Hand crews and helicopter drops caught and controlled these two situations quickly and efficiently.

 Relative humidity levels have ranged between 30 and 40 percent, and the continued focus on staying hydrated in warm temperatures has resulted in zero heat related injuries today. Firefighter safety continues to be the number one priority on this incident, with situational awareness being the key to avoiding and mitigating the numerous hazards associated with fighting wildfire in steep terrain. Due to numerous sightings, firefighters have also been instructed to watch for venomous snakes, bears and ticks.

Route 39 remains open, but many forest roads are closed to the public. These include, but are not limited to, Bratton Mountain Road, Guy Run and Laurel Run.  Area residents and people who will be driving through the area are reminded that smoke may be present for several days and that smoke can reduce visibility on the two-lane, windy road.  Drivers should continue to exercise caution when in the area.   

Resources on site: 70 personnel from VDOF and DGIF. 

The fire has burned close to 2,600 acres since it began Monday.  New containment lines are being built that will cover an area of approximately 4,000 acres. 

The fire is burning on the 30,000-acre Goshen Wildlife Management Area. No homes or structures are threatened at this time.

 

 

Friday, 5 p.m.-The following update on the Goshen fire was sent out this afternoon by the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Extreme fire behavior continued today, and several additional fire lines were breached.  A contracted helicopter flew multiple water drops in the early afternoon.

Crews from the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries began work just after sunrise to continue battling the blaze and building new containment lines.  Flame lengths on some of the fronts reached 50 feet.  Relative humidity levels were a little higher (30 percent) than yesterday when it dropped to about 20 percent and several firefighters experienced dehydration.      

Route 39 was reopened at 1 p.m. following a burnout operation along the roadside.  Area residents and people who will be driving through the area are reminded that smoke may be present for several days and that smoke can reduce visibility on the two-lane, windy road.  Drivers should exercise caution when in the area.    

Resources on site: 70 personnel from VDOF and DGIF. 

The fire has burned more than 1,800 acres since it began Monday.  New containment lines are being built that will cover an area of approximately 3,500 acres. 

The fire is burning on the 30,000-acre Goshen Wildlife Management Area.  Several seasonal cabins in the expanded containment area were watched by the Goshen Volunteer Fire Department last night.  No other homes or structures are threatened at this time.

The fire is burning mostly leaf litter and downed trees in an area that is mostly hardwoods, mountain laurel and some spotty pine. 

The terrain is very steep (70% slope) and rocky; and most of the fire line construction is being done by crews using hand tools, such as leaf blowers, rakes and a tool called a Pulaski.  A third fire dozer arrived on scene this morning along with additional brush trucks and VDOF personnel from the Central and Eastern Regions.

McDonald’s in Lexington has provided free breakfast sandwiches to the firefighters for three days, and the Goshen Scout Reservation has provided space for the equipment and personnel staging.

FRIDAY, 1 P.M - Va. 39 through Goshen Pass has, indeed, been reopened, but the fire is continuing to grow, now up to 1,800, and new containment lines are being created to keep the fire within 3,500. It has also been a very trying fire for firefighters as the following morning update from John Campbell with the Virginia Department of Forestry shows.

Fire behavior yesterday was extreme, and numerous fire lines were compromised.  Complicating efforts were mechanical issues with two contracted helicopters that grounded them for part of the day.  A single-engine air tanker out of Ashland was called in and made several water drops just before sunset.

Crews from the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries worked between 16 and 20 hours battling the blaze and trying to build new containment lines.  Flame lengths on some of the fronts reached 40 feet.  Relative humidity levels dropped to about 20 percent and several firefighters experienced dehydration.     

Route 39 remains closed this morning and crews are conducting burnout operations near the road.  Once the burnout is complete, officials will evaluate whether it is safe to reopen to traffic. When Route 39 does reopen, area residents and people who will be driving through the area are reminded that smoke will be present for several days and that smoke can reduce visibility on the two-lane, windy road.  Drivers should exercise caution when in the area.   

Resources on site: 65 personnel from VDOF and DGIF. 

The fire has burned more than 1,800 acres since it began Monday.  New containment lines will be constructed to cover an area of approximately 3,500 acres. 

The fire is burning on the Goshen Wildlife Management Area.  Several seasonal cabins in the expanded containment area were watched by the Goshen Volunteer Fire Department last night.  No other homes or structures are threatened at this time.

The fire is burning mostly leaf litter and downed trees in an area that is mostly hardwoods, mountain laurel and some spotty pine. 

The terrain is very steep (70% slope) and rocky; and most of the fire line construction is being done by crews using hand tools, such as leaf blowers, rakes and a tool called a Pulaski.  A third fire dozer arrived on scene this morning along with additional brush trucks and VDOF personnel from the Central and Eastern Regions.

A helicopter is also on scene today for both aerial reconnaissance and water drops.

McDonald’s in Lexington has provided free breakfast sandwiches to the firefighters for three days, and the Goshen Scout Reservation has provided space for the equipment and personnel staging.

 

 

FRIDAY, NOON - Va. 39 in the Goshen Pass is scheduled to reopen at 1 p.m. today. The roadway has been closed for safety reasons between Route 623 (Farmhouse Road) and Route 601 (Millard Burke Memorial Highway), where several agencies are battling a wildfire.

 

Route 39 through Goshen Pass may have to be closed again if conditions warrant.

 

FRIDAY, 9 a.m. - Goshen Pass remains closed today for continued firefighting operations, according to a posting from Alert Rockbridge.

 

THURSDAY, 3 p.m. - Va. 39 through Goshen Pass has been closed again and will remain closed at least until Friday morning.

Due to trees and rocks coming down from a portion of the mountain above Va. 39 at Goshen Pass, that portion of the road is closed and will remain closed until a determination is made Friday morning at 8, according to John Campbell with the Virginia Department of Forestry.  If the road is deemed safe in the morning, Va. 39 will be reopened as soon as possible.

 

THURSDAY, 11:30 a.m. - Editor's note: The following update was provided by the VDOF late this morning.

Crews from the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries are back on the mountain this morning conducting additional back burns to remove fuel so that the fire won’t be able to expand beyond its established fire lines. 

VDOF is partnering this morning with the Virginia Department of Transportation to clear dead trees and large rocks that slid down the mountain overnight onto portions of Route 39 at Goshen Pass.  The road was closed yesterday and is expected to reopen at noon today.

Last evening a helicopter made multiple water drops from the air as crews conducted back burns among some heavy forest fuels, including large groupings of mountain laurel which sent flames 15 feet into the air. 

Resources on site: 42 personnel from VDOF and DGIF.  VDOT has a crew of 6 working on Route 39.

The fire has burned more than 1,000 acres since it began Monday.  Containment lines have been established around the perimeter and back burns are being lit from these fire lines.

The fire is burning on the Goshen Wildlife Management Area and no homes or structures are threatened at this time.

The fire is burning mostly leaf litter and downed trees in an area that is mostly hardwoods, mountain laurel and some spotty pine. 

The terrain is very steep (70% slope) and rocky; and most of the fire line construction is being done by crews using hand tools, such as leaf blowers, rakes and a tool called a Pulaski.

Once Route 39 reopens, area residents and people driving through the area on Route 39 are reminded that smoke is heavy and can reduce visibility on the two-lane, windy road.  Drivers should exercise caution when in the area.

  

 

 

THURSDAY, 8:30 a.m. - Va. 39  in  Goshen Pass remains closed this morning as fire crews continue to work the areas near the road. This closure extends from the eastern overlook to Va. 601, which comprises the entire Goshen Pass.

Fire officials plan to reopen the road at noon today if conditions allow. The roadway has been closed since before 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

 

WEDNESDAY, 5:30 p.m. - Va. 39 through Goshen Pass is temporarily closed this evening as crews burn away some of the debris remaining alongside the road.

Nathan Ramsey, county emergency management coordinator, said some of the burning debris from the forest fire had been rolling down the hillside into the ditches alongside the road, and the Virginia Department of Forestry decided to light that debris and let it burn back up the hill. He said the road should be reopened this evening and that he would post a message on Alert Rockbridge when it has been reopened.

Meanwhile the VDOF sent out the following update on the fire at 5 p.m.

"Crews from the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries spent most of today conducting back burns that will remove fuel so that the fire won’t be able to expand beyond its established fire lines.  One of the back burns (see attached photos) occurred on top of Cooper’s Knob where crews used the area under the high-voltage power lines to initiate the protective measure. 

"Resources on site: 42 personnel, most of whom are working the back burns or constructing additional fire lines using hand tools, rakes and two fire dozers.

"Estimated size of the fire is 500+ acres.

"The fire is burning on the Goshen Wildlife Management Area and no homes or structures are threatened at this time.

"The fire is burning mostly leaf litter and downed trees in an area that is mostly hardwoods, mountain laurel and some spotty pine. 

"The terrain is very steep (70% slope) and rocky.

"Area residents and those driving through the area on Route 39 are reminded that smoke is heavy and can reduce visibility on the two-lane, windy road.  Drivers should exercise caution when in the area."

 

WEDNESDAY, 2:30 p.m. - According to a message just posted on Alert Rockbridge, a fire line has now been established completely around the fire in Goshen Pass; it is contained at this time.

Forestry personnel are still on scene working and will continue to do so for a few days. There is no danger to any private land or structures. Area residents are asked to continue to use caution when traveling through the area.

TUESDAY, noon - Arson is suspected in the forest fire in Goshen Pass that started Monday.

Luke Fisher, conservation police officer with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said Tuesday an arson investigation is underway in the fire that started around midday Monday along Va. 39 just past the Laurel Run access road. The department owns the land where the fire is being fought.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call 1 (800) 237-5712. Anyone who calls will remain anonymous.

 

MONDAY, 7 p.m. -- Firefighters continue to battle a fire along Va. 39 in the Goshen area that started earlier today and has claimed some 10 acres of forest so far.

Nathan Ramsey, county director of fire and EMS services, told The News-Gazette this evening that the work could continue through Tuesday and beyond to subdue the blaze, which was reported today around midday and has been dubbed the Forge Mountain Fire. Area firefighters and Virginia Department of Forestry crews will be setting controlled backfires to help contain the fire's damage.

Fortunately, Ramsey added, there is no major concern at this time over extreme dry weather or high winds. VDF helicopters were called in this afternoon to haul and dump large sacks of water over otherwise inaccessible burning areas.

The fire's cause is unknown at this time. VDF is investigating.

"It'll be a pretty big fire when all is said and done," Ramsey said. He couldn't say yet how many acres are likely to be consumed before the fire is extinguished.

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