GLEN JEAN, W.Va. (WBOY) — The Steep Valley fire increased to 2,028 acres on Monday and continues to burn in the remote War Ridge and Backus Mountain areas of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the National Park Service (NPS) said.
As of Monday evening, crews had the fire up to 70% contained, though it was continuing to burn in steep, rugged and areas of inaccessible terrain, the NPS said in a press release. As of Tuesday, 69 firefighters were “actively engaged” and were working to hold and improve fire lines amid a warming, drying trend that forecasters expect to continue for “the next several days.”
On Monday, crews used a helicopter to drop buckets of water on the eastern edge of the fire.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to the NPS, and so far one firefighter has sustained a “minor injury” during the firefighting efforts.
A drying trend is behind the “reanimation” of the fire, the NPS said, and heavy smoke may linger for “a few days” and limit visibility for drivers. The NPS said on Tuesday, the potential of increased smoke in the area means that members of sensitive groups may experience health effects within 24 hours of exposure. Click here for information about the fire and air quality.
Monday’s closure has been expanded to include all National Park Service lands bounded by the New River on the south and west to the town of Quinnimont, due east along State Highway 41 to the intersection of Backus-Red Spring Road, as well as the area directly south to the CSX railroad right of way at the river. The NPS said the expansion was “out of an abundance of caution for firefighter safety.”
The rest of the park is open for its normal hours of operation, though the closure could change as park management continues to assess the fire’s activity and park conditions.