Update, 10:20 am. Nov. 16: The Matt’s Creek Fire has now spread to 2,500 acres.
Almost 20 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway through Bedford County has been closed to traffic as crews continue to battle a wildfire that has spread to 2,500 acres.
Meanwhile, a half-dozen more wildfires remain active across the state as drought conditions continue, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s real-time fire tracker. Many more fires are are listed as contained or under control on the site.
The U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday that the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closed from milepost 66.3, near U.S. 501, to milepost 85.9, at Virginia 43, until further notice. The nearby Matt’s Creek Fire, which now covers 2,500 acres in the Jefferson National Forest, is causing heavy smoke throughout the region, the agency said. The closure also will allow crews to stage equipment and conduct operations using parkway lands.
A 10-mile segment of the Appalachian Trail as well as other nearby hiking trails were closed earlier this week in response to the fire.
The blaze currently is within the James River Face Wilderness, and no structures are threatened, according to the Forest Service. The latest update from the Forest Service said that the fire is 0% contained.
Among the other large fires that are still burning, the Quaker Run Fire in Madison County, is now listed by the Virginia Department of Forestry at 61% contained; it has burned almost 4,000 acres.
The Rocklick Fire in Buchanan County is 80% contained after burning 2,200 acres. The Tuggle’s Gap Fire in Patrick County has burned 1,150 acres and is 70% contained. And the Rachel’s Chapel Fire in Dickenson County, at 1,135 acres, is now 90% contained.
The U.S. Drought Monitor last week raised the drought rating to extreme over a portion of the Shenandoah Valley, and most of the rest of the western two-thirds of Virginia is in moderate to severe drought. [Weather journalist Kevin Myatt writes more about the drought.]