CHARLESTON — Extremely smoky air from the 550-acre Dry Hollow Fire in Pendleton County’s Smoke Hole area began drifting into the town of Franklin, West Virginia, late Friday, reducing visibility for drivers and elevating health risks for those with respiratory conditions venturing outdoors.
The wildfire was first reported during the predawn hours of Thursday, when it was seen burning in extremely steep and rocky terrain about 2 miles north of Upper Tract, according to Monongahela National Forest public information officer Kelly Bridges.
Both private and Monongahela National Forest land has been charred by the blaze, the origin of which has yet to be determined.
On Friday, about 60 firefighters were battling the blaze, including personnel from the Upper Tract Volunteer Fire Department, state Division of Forestry, and U.S. Forest Service firefighters from West Virginia, Montana, Oregon, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Trained Job Corps students were also involved in the effort.
Firefighters were building firelines on the west edge of the wildfire to protect structures, while those on the eastern side of the blaze were scouting the Cave Mountain area for new hot spots and sites to buffer private land between Jake Hill Road and the national forest boundary.
Fire crews used bulldozers to build firelines around homes and outbuildings, and then burned out areas near the structures to eliminate fuel from possible approaching blazes.
As of late Friday, no structures had been damaged by the fire, according to the Forest Service.
Smoke Hole Road was closed between Upper Tract and Shreve’s Country Store, and one private campground along the road was evacuated.
Firefighters should get some relief in the form of rain, expected to arrive in Pendleton County on Saturday, with as much as three-fourths of an inch of precipitation possible by late Sunday.
In early 2017, a wildfire burned more than 1,600 acres in the Smoke Hole area northeast of Seneca Rocks.