Seneca Rocks Fire Continues to Burn as of July 5th
A fire has been burning at Seneca Rocks in West Virginia since Saturday, July 1st. The United States Department of Agriculture provided Allegheny Mountain Radio with the following updated information from a news release dated Wednesday, July 5th.
Firefighters continue their efforts to contain the Seneca Fire and make the area safe for visitors. The fire is still active despite the trace amounts of rain the fire area received yesterday. The ground fire is burning primarily in the duff layer which is a buildup of years of organic material from leaves, pine needles, and woody debris that can be a foot thick or more. The area is also very steep and rocky. All of these factors combined allow the fire to remain hot in places for a longer period of time even during and after precipitation.
Firefighter and public safety is always the main concern with any fire. Incident Commander, Terry Walter, says, “We will need at least a half inch of rain in order for the fire to be impacted. The terrain where the Seneca fire is located is very steep and rugged, making it hard to access and time consuming to put out the fire. The fire is slowing down, but there is still a threat to firefighter and public safety.”
In addition to the fire, which could be re-kindled if dry conditions return to the area, the two main concerns are snags and rolling debris. As the fire burns around the duff, it can start to undermine the rocks, causing them to become unstable. Cheat-Potomac District Ranger, Troy Waskey, says, “Saw crews are working now to minimize the danger of snags in close proximity to the trails, however, the danger of rolling debris is a problem that will exist well into the future. Visitors will need to use caution as they navigate the area around Seneca Rocks, particularly in the burn area and down slope from the fire once the area reopens.”
The cause of the Seneca Fire is under investigation by the USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations. Anyone with any information is encouraged to call the USDA Forest Service at (304) 636-1800 ext. 331. Any information will be kept confidential. A reward is being offered for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for starting the fire.
The area surrounding the fire is still closed to public use; however, the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center and Picnic Area west of the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River remain open to the public. Waskey explains, “We understand this closure comes at an extremely busy time of year and rest assured, crews are working hard to contain and extinguish the fire. We will reopen the area to the public as soon as it is safe for visitors.”
A few photos of the fire will accompany this news story at the posted website link at www.alleghenymountainradio.org . The photos are provided by the USDA Forest Service courtesy of the website at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5311/ – more photos are available there.
Photos credit: USDA Forest Service and https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5311/