BOTETOURT – The Short Hills Fire in Botetourt County northeast of Buchanan continues to be the most significant and difficult to suppress wildfire currently burning in Virginia, according to a prepared statement by the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF).
To speed up suppression efforts, the VDOF will begin a ‘burning out operation” this afternoon and evening (Wednesday, April 1).
The fire that started on Monday and quickly grew to almost 125 acres by that evening due to the rough terrain and Red Flag Warning weather conditions of high winds, low humidity and dry fuels. As of this morning the fire now covers over 450 acres and it is anticipated to be nearly 1,000 acres when it is finally suppressed.
In addition to this fire, there were 29 additional wildfires which burned 580 acres yesterday.
As part of the suppression effort, the VDOF under the direction of Incident Commanders Denny McCarthy and Steve Counts, are planning what is referred to as a burning out operation late this afternoon or early evening.
“Burning-out is an operation where we actually set fires to unburned fuel between the main fire and the firelines constructed by the bulldozers, to speed fire containment. It is an important part of the suppression effort, completed under very specific conditions and the watchful eye or I should say eyes of the firefighters,” McCarthy said.
John Miller, the Virginia Department of Forestry Director of Resource Protection, said, “This one fire has stretched our resources; we moved both personnel and equipment to this fire to assist in the 24 hour per day operation from all across Virginia.”
The backfiring or burning out operation will be very visible once it begins and will last for several hours. Folks traveling on I-81 will be able to see lots of smoke and actual fire especially when the sun sets. Citizens in the area are asked to NOT attempt to go “sightseeing” especially in areas that would interfere with the suppression actions.