Updated: Shenandoah National Park forest fire closes part of Skyline Drive

Shenandoah National Park 1 forest fire
Rocky Mount fire in Shenandoah National Park. April 18, 2016. Photo by Alan Williams with National Park Service.

[This post will be continually updated at the bottom as new information is available from the National Park Service. On April 21, fire personnel on scene estimated the fire may continue to burn through April 30.]

A forest fire in Shenandoah National Park that has grown to more than 3,000 acres has disrupted National Parks Week that began Saturday, the same day the Rocky Mount fire broke out in the southern portion of the Park.

Tuesday evening Park spokeswoman Lisa Wilkolak confirmed that Skyline Drive remains closed in the southern section between Swift Run Gap and Loft Mountain Campground.

A narrow plume of smoke rising from the Blue Ridge Mountain ridges within the Park was spotted from Harrisonburg on Saturday and became larger over the weekend as the fire spread. Abundant natural fuel combined with extremely dry conditions, low humidity, and high winds contributed to the fire growing to more than 3,000 acres.

The flames have been visible for miles at night, and friends reported seeing and smelling smoke thirty miles east in Charlottesville. A lack of lightning storms suggested it may be human caused.

Trail closures were updated on Tuesday with the following:

– Skyline Drive is CLOSED between the entrance at Swift Run Gap at Milepost 65 (Route 33) and Loft Mountain at MP 79;
– The Appalachian Trail is closed from Powell Gap at MP 70 to Doyles River Overlook at MP 82.
– Rocky Mount Trail;
– Gap Run Trail;
– Onemile Trail;
– Pinefield Hut at MP 75;
– Brown Mountain Trail;
– Big Run Portal Trail;
– Rocky Mountain Run Trail;
– Rockytop Trail;
– Big Run Loop;
– Austin Mountain Trail;
– Lewis Peak Trail;
– Patterson Ridge Trail;
– Madison Run Spur;
– Madison Run Fire Road.

For those wishing to reach the northern end of Skyline Drive from I-64 and Afton Mountain, Route 340 North parallels the Drive to Route 33 and the Swift Run Gap entrance station to the Park.

Search for missing Fairfax firefighter
Over the weekend another incident caused the park service to close trails in the vicinity of Skyland Resort in the Central Distict of the Drive. Due to the ongoing search for 31-year-old Fairfax County firefighter Nicole Mittendorff, the following trails located in the search area are closed:

– Whiteoak Canyon
– Limberlost
– Crescent Rocks
– Cedar Run
– Cedar Run Link Trail.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Virginia State Police and U.S. Park Police were using officers trained in search and rescue, dogs and aircraft to try to locate” the firefighter who had was reported missing on Friday:

The search on Monday morning had centered on the White Oak Canyon Trail, near where Mittendorff’s cream-colored 2009 Mini Cooper was discovered on Saturday close to the popular hiking spot of Old Rag mountain, said Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman.

But on Monday afternoon, Shenandoah National Park announced it was closing four other trails in the area to search for Mittendorff as well.

Mittendorff is described as a 5-foot-6-inch white woman with blond hair and green eyes, weighing about 125 pounds. The Virginia State Police has asked anyone with information about Mittendorff to call 703-803-0026 or email information to questions@vsp.virginia.gov.

Shenandoah National Park still open for visitors
There are still plenty of places open in the park — hikes and facilities including Skyland Resort and the Byrd Visitor Center at Big Meadows at MP 51.

Shenandoah National Park personnel suggested some favorite trails that are open:

– Waterfall hike: Rose River Loop;
– Vista hikes: Stony Man, Marys Rock, and Mt. Marshall;
– Canyon hike: Little Devil Stairs.

Free admission to the Park continues through April 24.

Updated 4/20/2016 at 6pm: The Rocky Mount fire in Shenandoah National Park expanded to 5,600 acres on Wednesday. For comparison, that is roughly half the size of the city of Harrisonburg or almost the size of Massanutten Resort (6,000 acres). Winds on Tuesday out of the north and Wednesday’s easterly winds have caused smoke to cover the Valley and settle over Harrisonburg and surrounding areas including south to Staunton and west to Franklin, West Virginia. Winds are expected to pick up on Thursday from the south pushing smoke north to New Market and vicinity.

This afternoon I drove from Fishersville in Augusta County north along the mountains to Route 33, driving into a curtain of smoke as the mountains completely disappeared. It looked like fog around houses, barns, cattle, farmers working in their fields, and businesses. A command center has been set up in Grottoes on the Rockingham-Augusta County line. Weather conditions are extremely dry with the first (small) chance of precipitation not expected until Friday. Humidity is low but expected to increase Thursday and even more on Friday. Those with health concerns regarding the smoke have been advised to stay indoors with good air circulation such as ceiling fans or air conditioning. All closures of trails and the Skyline Drive (above) are still in effect, and additional closures have been added. This from the Park Service:

Due to trail improvement work, the Hawksbill area will be closed from Wednesday, April 20 through Friday, April 22 and Monday, April 25 through Friday, April 29. Closures will be suspended for the April 23-24 weekend. This closure includes: Upper Hawksbill Parking, Upper Hawksbill Trail, Salamander Trail, Lower Hawksbill Trail, Byrds Nest 2 Shelter, Hawksbill Observation Platform, and the summit area of Hawksbill Mountain. These are not related to the existing fire or missing-person trail closures.

The Hawksbill Observation Platform is being renovated as part of the National Park Service Centennial celebration. The project is being funded by a generous donation from the Shenandoah National Park Trust

Update 4/20/2016 at 8:30pm: Additional information has been shared by Shenandoah National Park:

Current Status 4/20/2016
The Southern Area Incident Management (Red) Team joined unified command today with the Shenandoah National Park and the Virginia Department of Forestry on the Rocky Mtn Fire 2016 burning in the Shenandoah National Park. The fire is suspected to be human caused, but remains under investigation. Late yesterday afternoon, the Rocky Mtn Fire had an 80-100 acre slop-over on the east side of Skyline Drive near mile marker 76. Since yesterday, the total fire acres have grown to approximately 5,600.

A firing operation was conducted yesterday to burn vegetation near the Beldor Hollow Community to help contain the fire to that area. Crews are confident that the fire will hold at Beldor Hollow Rd. The fire progressed south near Brown Mountain Trail and was active overnight near 2 Mile Run Lane. The Virginia Department of Forestry crews monitored the area overnight. Fire crews are providing structure protection near 2 Mile Run and Lam Hollow communities. The weather remains dry today; however, a cold front is expected to bring a chance of rain on Friday. The fire is burning in mountain laurel, pine, and oak forests with heavy leaf litter.

Planned Events
Today crews are actively suppressing the slop-over in the area of Skyline Drive. Crews continue to hold the containment line at Beldor Hollow Rd. and are mopping up in that area. Crews are working to complete a handline to tie into the dozer line for containment along the western park boundary. Priorities are structure protection and containing the fire within the boundaries of the park, west of Skyline Drive, east of 2 Mile Run community, and west of Beldor Hollow fire road to minimize impacts to private lands.

Personnel: 248
Equipment: 2 Type 2 Helicopters, 2 Type 3 Helicopters, 6 engines, 2 fixed wing air tankers
Cooperators: National Park Service, Virginia Department of Forestry, Rockingham County Department of Fire and Rescue, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department.

Fire Weather
Dry cold front moved through the area last night bringing a wind shift out of the easterly direction. Smoke may drift over the Shenandoah Valley. Mostly sunny with high temperature around 66°F and lows in the mid-40s °F. Relative humidity is 21-26%. Easterly winds are expected today at 3-5 mph.

Update 4/21/2016 at 9:30am: Here is a map from the Virginia Department of Forestry showing the burn area in yellow. Fire lines have been set up at the park boundaries where private homes may be in danger.
Shenandoah National Park 2 fire

Update 4/21/2016 at 10am: More trail closings announced by the Park Service:

– Loft Mountain Wayside
– Browns Gap Fire Road
– Madison Run Fire Road
– Doyles River PATC Cabin.
– Skyline Drive is now closed from Swift Run Gap (MP 65.5) to Browns Gap (MP 83).

Update 4/21/2016 at 1:30pm: SNP has announced additional closures:

– Skyline Drive is now closed from Swift Run Gap (MP 65.5) to Blackrock Gap (MP 87.5).
– The Appalachian Trail is now closed from Powell Gap (MP 70) to Blackrock Gap (MP 87.5).
– Blackrock hut is closed.

New trail closures:
– Furnace Mountain Trail
– Trayfoot Mountain Trail
– Jones Run trail
– Doyles River trail

Update 4/21/2016 at 4:30pm: Shenandoah National Park wants visitors to know the areas where trails are closed also means the back country around those trails is also closed. Here is their latest update:

We want to get a message out to our visitors that during these major fire and search incidents when the trail is closed – the closure includes all on-trail and off-trail use. We use the term “back country” to describe the areas of the park that are away from developed areas and roads. During these incidents with trail closures, the back country in these areas is also closed.

Update 4/21/2016 at 6pm: The search in Shenandoah National Park for missing Fairfax County firefighter Nicole Mittenhoff was suspended this afternoon when a body was found by searchers. The National Park Service released the following:

Madison County, Va-Search efforts in the Shenandoah National Park were suspended Thursday afternoon (April 21, 2016) with the discovery of female remains within the park property. At approximately 2:00 p.m. a ground team of National Park Service and Virginia State Police personnel discovered a body in a remote location more than a mile from the Whiteoak Canyon parking area and about 330 yards from the trail in treacherous rocky terrain. National Park Service and Virginia State Police are currently still processing the scene.

National Park Service and Virginia State Police personnel will conduct a press conference at Whiteoak parking area at 7:30 p.m.

More on this breaking story can be found here.

Shenandoah National Park 3 fire
Virginia Governor McAuliffe visits firefighting command center in Grottoes Friday morning. Photo by NPS.

Update 4/22/2016 at 9am: The SNP fire engulfed more than 8,000 acres. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe stopped by the Grottoes command center this morning to thank those who are working the fire both on and behind the front lines.

Shenandoah National Park 4 fire
Stone Gait Farm in the foreground belongs to Tina and Alan Grove. I don’t know who to give photo credit to for this stunning photo that helps to show the intensity and enormity of the Rocky Mount fire.

Update 4/22/2016 at 5:30pm: All trail closures in the Whiteoak area associated with the recent search for the missing hiker/firefighter have been lifted.

We had rain today in the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains. Driving north to eastern Rockingham County this afternoon, the air quality had improved greatly since Wednesday. Wind directions had changed yesterday and moved smoke north and northeast.

The latest report from the Park Service:

Fire containment lines were improved by burning out vegetation between the containment lines and the main fire yesterday afternoon and evening south along Skyline Drive to mile marker 80. Additional fire line improvement was successfully completed along the boundaries of the fire from Skyline Drive across the entire northern portion from Beldor Hollow to the Gap Run area.

With the changing and variable winds yesterday fire crews picked up multiple spot fires, catching and containing all of them including a spot that jumped Skyline Drive. The flame lengths, which have been 3 to 4 feet, are now anticipated to be in the 6 inch to 1 foot range unless influenced by wind over the next couple of operation periods, but dependent on rain fall. This is creating a window of opportunity for fire resources to more effectively contain and expand mop up operations today.

The Team urges the public to keep drones out of the area. Fire aircraft have to be grounded whenever a drone is spotted in the wildfire area. Total fire acres are 7,935 with 40% containment. The fire, which was first reported on Saturday, April 16th, is burning in mountain laurel, pine, and oak forests with heavier than average leaf litter and duff.

In addition, “crews are continuing to actively suppress spot fires in the area of Skyline Drive. Crews continue to hold and mop up along containment lines. A new operational division has been created and staffed for the southwestern section of the fire. Today’s efforts are focused on continued scouting and building and/or improvement of containment lines along the southern and western boundaries of the fire.”

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) has been declared for this fire.

Skyline Drive continues to be closed from Swift Run Gap (MP 65.5) to Black Rock Gap (MP 87.5). That leaves 18 miles of the Drive open from Afton Mountain/Rockfish Gap/I-64 (MP 105) to Black Rock Gap.

The Appalachian Trail is closed from Blackrock Gap (MP 87.5) to Powell Gap (MP 70).

Closures:

– Rockytop Trail
– Rocky Mount Trail
– Big Run Loop
– Gap Run Trail
– Austin Mountain Trail
– Onemile Run Trail
– Lewis Peak Trail
– Brown Mountain Trail
– Patterson Ridge Trail
– Big Run Portal Trail
– Madison Run Spur
– Furnace Mountain Trail
– Trayfoot Mountain Trail
– Blackrock Trail
– Doyles River Trail
– Jones Run Trail
– Rocky Mountain Run Trail
– Madison Run Fire Road
– Browns Gap Fire Road
– Madison Run Fire Road
– Doyles River Cabin is closed

Personnel: 301

Equipment: 2 Type 2 Helicopters, 3 Type 3 Helicopters, 11 engines, 2 fixed wing SEATs (Single Engine Air Tankers) and 2 Air Attack/lead plane

Cooperators: National Park Service, Virginia Department of Forestry, Rockingham County Department of Fire and Rescue, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Grottoes Volunteer Fire Department.

Fire Weather:
A cold front is moving slowly across the Appalachian Mountains today with the first showers expected to arrive in the fire area by this morning and a potential for brief thunder showers this afternoon, bringing projected rainfall total of a tenth to just over a quarter of an inch. Winds today will be out of the southwest, shifting to the northwest tonight after the frontal passage. In spite of the wetting showers and increased humidity it will continue to be breezy along the ridgetops and along Skyline Drive. Smoke production by the fire is anticipated to be lighter than earlier days and will be blowing to the northeast of the fire switching around to the southeast, towards Charlottesville by late afternoon.

A helpful link for smoke/air quality: http://vadeq.tx.sutron.com

Update 4/22/2016 at 6:30pm:Admission to Shenandoah National Park is FREE for the rest of the weekend. The northern and central sections of Skyline Drive are open as well as Skyland Resort, Byrd Visitor Center at Big Meadows, and the Junior Ranger programs begins this weekend.

Update 4/22/2016 at 8pm: Wayne Printz in Elkton echoes the thoughts of many in the areas that surround the Blue Ridge Mountains that make up Shenandoah National Park. He posted the picture below along with his thank you for those men and women who put their lives on the line to battle wildfires and protect not only the national forest but also private property on the perimeter of the Park.

Shenandoah National Park 5 fire

“Some people run away from problems, others run toward them. To the almost 300 self-sacrificing firefighters and support personnel from all over the country who are here fighting the Shenandoah National Park blaze, know that you have the respect, admiration and gratitude of the entire Elkton community. Reality TV stars, athletes and political candidates may dominate the media, but brave men and women like you are America’s true heroes.” -Wayne Printz

Update 4/23/2016 at 9am: Here is the link to an interview on WHSV TV-3 with Shenandoah National Park Superintendent Jim Northrop discussing management of the Rocky Mount forest fire. There was criticism at a community meeting Tuesday night that park officials let the fire get out of hand. This one-on-one interview with anchor Bob Corso gave insight into the fire battle on the mountain.

Update 4/23/2016 at 9:30am: The search for missing hiker and Fairfax County firefighter Nicole Mittendorff is over but I wanted to include this press release from the National Park Service because it recognizes the searchers who spent almost a week in the mountains on their mission.

Shenandoah National Park Search Suspended; Trails Reopen

Based on a preliminary identification of remains found Thursday, April 21, 2016, the search for Nicole Mittendorff conducted by Shenandoah National Park with support from Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Virginia State Police has been suspended. All trails in the Whiteoak Canyon area have been reopened.

The body of a female was discovered by searchers about a mile from the parking lot where Ms. Mittendorff’s vehicle was found and about 300 yards off-trail. State police, FBI, and National Park Service personnel processed the scene as part of the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Ms. Mittendorff, 31, of Woodbridge, Va. The physical and digital evidence collected during the course of this investigation, including a note recovered from her car, leads investigators to believe there was no foul play involved in her death. The body has been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas for autopsy, examination, and positive ID.

Shenandoah National Park joins Virginia State Police and Virginia Department of Emergency Management in thanking the many organization that were involved including Angel Search and Rescue, Black Diamond SAR, Blue and Grey SAR, Blue Ridge Mountain Rescue Group, Dogs East, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, K9 Alert, Piedmont SAR, Rockingham and Augusta County SAR, SAR Tracker Institute, Shenandoah Mountain Rescue Group, Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, Southwest VA Mountain Rescue Group, and Virginia Search and Rescue Dog Association.

Update 4/23/2016 at 9:30am: Fire update — the fire has grown to 9,000 acres and is 42 percent contained.

Update 4/24/2016 at 9am: The Park Service is providing shuttle service for AT hikers around the parts of the trail affected by the Rocky Mount fire:

The Rocky Mtn Fire 2016 has disrupted a treasured and challenging hiking tradition in Shenandoah National Park (SNP). The Appalachian Trail runs through SNP, and is managed by the National Park Service. The Appalachian Conservancy (ATC), which is not associated with the National Park Service, provides a certificate to anyone who reports completion of the entire Appalachian Trail as a “2,000-miler,” based upon the original estimated length of the Trail. Conservancy policy is to operate on an honor system, assuming that those who apply for 2000-miler status have hiked all of the A.T. between Katahdin and Springer Mountain, either as a thru-hiker or in sections. Due to the fire a portion of the trail within the National Park is closed.

The Conservancy has made a concession to this disaster by agreeing to issue the certificates to hikers who take advantage of one of the two shuttle services that are being offered to hikers in the park to bypass the closed trail section. The affected trail is the southern Section of Shenandoah National Park to Swift Run Gap.

Shenandoah National Park is offering a shuttle service with pickups at the trail barriers on either side of the closure. The southern barrier/pickup spot is at Blackrock Gap, milepost 87.5. The northern barrier/pickup spot is located at Powell Gap, milepost 70. Hikers should wait at the barriers for the shuttle to carry them to the other side of the closure. The wait time between shuttle pickups is estimated at 30-45 minutes, depending on fire activity and traffic. The park will run the shuttles between 7:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

The other shuttle service available is provided by the Trail Angels organization, a volunteer group dedicated to helping people who need to bypass the southern section of the Appalachian Trail. The Trail Angels will run regularly scheduled shuttles both ways between Waynesboro, Pavilion/Hiker Camping area and Swift Run Gap. Trail Angels shuttles are not affiliated with the Shenandoah National Park/ATC/PATC. For details on the Trail Angels shuttle schedule call Heather Sloan, 240-626-3889

Appalachian Trail map 1

Update on fire situation
Almost 350 fire personnel are working on the Rocky Mount fire that had grown to 9,000 acres on Saturday with 43 percent containment. With light rain Friday and Saturday along with calmer winds, firefighters have had an opportunity to catch up a bit as they work toward a goal of total containment by April 30. However, weather conditions will change this week with temperatures in the 70s/80s and higher winds.

Planned activity
Continue structural fire protection; establish control lines; prepare for and burnout as needed to keep ahead of the main fire.

Projected incident activity
12 hours: Continue to establish containment lines on west and south sides of the fire. Burn out as needed to prevent fire from escaping containment lines and impacting private lands. As fuels continue to dry following the rain event, fire behavior is expected to increase. Dependent on position on slope and wind, there is expected movement on the southern portion of the fire and unsheltered drainages. Heavy fuel is starting to show visible activity.

24 hours: Continue to scout and establish control lines on south and southwest side of fire utilizing existing trails, roads, and natural boundaries where opportunities exist. As fuels continue to dry following the rain event, fire behavior is expected to increase. Dependent on position on slope and wind, there is expectd movement on the southern portion of the fire and unsheltered drainages.

48 hours: Conduct burnout operations to secure control lines

Current weather conditions
The fire received .14 inches of rain over the last 24 hours. Forecast weather concerns are trending back to warmer and drier conditions that will allow for increased fire behavior over the next 48 hours.

72 hours: Initiate strategic firing operation to consume interior fuels.

Update 4/24/2016 at noon: The Park Service and firefighters hope to burn out vegetation between containment lines and the main fire front to bolster containment that now stands at 43 percent. A test fire on the west side of the fire in the Big Run area has been started from the ground. They hope to start aerial ignition on the southeast side of the fire in the Eppert Hollow area soon. More smoke may become visible because of these operations.

Photos: Spring arrives in Shenandoah National Park. Despite the fire, the cycle of life continues as spring arrives in the mountains.

Update 4/25/2016 at 8am: Firefighters were busy Sunday as helicopters dropped “ping pong ball”-sized mini-incendiaries that ignited as they hit the ground, setting backfires to burn underbrush and remove accelerant from the path of the fire. From the Park Service:

Aerial ignitions are an efficient and effective means of putting beneficial fire on the ground on a large scale. First there was a small drop of just a few balls to create a test fire to affirm the firing would accomplish the burnout goals of creating a barrier of protection on the perimeter of the fire. This test process verifies that weather and fuels (dead, woody vegetation) are appropriate to accomplish the mission safely. The goal of the main burnout operation is to keep the fire on the ground, allow it to burn with less severity and limit forest damage.

The Park warned of increased smoke: “Tonight smoke coming off the Rocky Mtn Fire 2016 may settle into and along the Shenandoah Valley north and west of burn area. Residents may smell smoke. Concentrations of smoke are not expected to exceed moderate health concern levels. Those sensitive to smoke are encouraged to take precautions such as keeping their windows shut to limit exposure. Smoke in the valley will clear by late morning as the inversion breaks and southwest winds clear the valley floor.”

Sunday’s action worked to clear firebreaks that were 300-400 feet wide ahead of this week’s predicted high temps and increased winds. Fire personnel from thirty states are on scene. Plans are to have the fire under total containment by the upcoming weekend.

Fire size: 9,386.

Personnel: 356

Update 3/25/2016: Jim Northup, Superintendent of Shenandoah National Park, wrote an open letter to the community about the progress on the Rocky Mount fire, the backfires that have been set to slow the main blaze, and a thank you to surrounding communities who have sent words of thanks, encouragement, and food to firefighters. See An open letter from the Superintendent of Shenandoah National Park.

Update 3/26/2016 at 9:30pm: Sixth Congressional District Representative Bob Goodlatte visited the Grottoes staging area on Tuesday to show his support for firefighters battling the second largest forest fire in the history of Shenandoah National Park. From SNP Facebook page:

U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte representing Virginia’s 6th district including Shenandoah National Park, attended our morning briefing today and showed his support for firefighting efforts. Congressman Bob Goodlatte was briefed by Park Superintendent Jim Northrup, Southern Area Red Team Incident Commander Mike Dueitt, and Rockingham County Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Jeremy Holloway. Northrup reported on the excellent safety record and the successful efforts to keep the fire within the park boundaries. Incident Commander Dueitt reported on the efforts taken by the team and planned actions.

Superintendent Northrup invited Melissa Forder, NPS Southeast Region Fire Ecologist to brief Congressman Goodlatte on the history of fire on the landscape of Shenandoah National Park and the effects this incident will have. Forder reported that this fire removed an 85 year fuel build-up of leaves and dead trees on the forest floor. This reduction of fuels helps prevent catastrophic wildfires that could occur in the future. She also explained that the fire will assist reproduction in several pine tree species including Table Mountain Pine which have serotinous cones that require fire to open and release their seeds. In a short time, Forder said, the re-growth will be like a “salad bar” for the wildlife and we’ll see an increase of wildlife in the recently burned areas.

Bob Goodlatte 1
Photo by NPS

Weather: On Tuesday we had thunderstorms across the Shenandoah Valley. SNP reported, “Showers and higher humidity occurred over the fire today. Unsettled weather is anticipated for the remainder of the week with wetting showers and thunderstorms.”

The fire has grown to over 10,000 acres that is now 70 percent contained.

Personnel: 353 from 33 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico

Equipment: 2 Medium Helicopters, 2 Light Helicopters, 11 engines, 1 dozer, 2 fixed wing SEATs (Single Engine Air Tankers) and 2 Air Attack/lead plane

Update 4/28/2016 at 11:30am: The rains finally arrived in the Blue Ridge Mountains the past two days and have been extremely beneficial to dousing the flames. In the words of the Park Service, “The rain is falling, Rocky Mtn Fire 2016 is mostly in the mop up and landscape repair and rehabilitation stage.”

Short videos from those fighting the fire are being posted on Shenandoah National Park’s Facebook page — very interesting to hear from the men and women from around the country who fill the many roles necessary in a huge operation like the Rocky Mount forest fire.

Among the many comments left on the Facebook page, here are a few that express the sentiment of most locals living on both sides of the mountain:

– “Not enough praise can be showered upon these selfless people who work so hard to protect and preserve!”

– “As a landowner whose property is 200 feet from the Park boundary in the MMA, I thank all of the fire fighters, support staff, leadership, etc. We are most grateful for your professionalism and dedication. Job well done.”

– “Great work in difficult conditions!”

– “Excellent job with transparency and communication! A good case study for crisis management education.”

Shenandoah National Park 5 fire

By Wednesday air quality had returned to good levels for the surrounding areas.

Shenandoah National Park 6 fire

From the SNP Facebook page: “Hope springs eternal — and bellworts, too! Ten days after the Rocky Mtn Fire 2016 began, this bellwort had already emerged from ashes near the origin of the fire. Having not burned for 85 years, this area has now experienced a recycling of nutrients, which stimulates new growth. Photo by Jeff Koenig/NPS.” Life is already returning to the burned area.

Shenandoah National Park 7 fire

The Rocky Mount fire is now 90 percent contained. Firefighters have been staying locally in Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Waynesboro, and have been seen — and thanked — by locals for the past two weeks. It was not the way SNP planned to spend National Parks Week to celebrate their Centennial Anniversary but they do deal with the constantly changing palate that is nature. Battling the second largest fire in the history of the Park was park of being flexible and prepared for the unknown.

When will Skyline Drive reopen? “We hope to open it by May 1. We first need to make sure that it is safe for visitors. Some of the overlooks may be closed temporarily when the drive reopens.”

  • Chris

    Ugh. This one seems like an outlier, but it’s a good reminder for us in the east of what happens when we don’t properly manage our public lands.

  • Craig Scott

    Thank you Lynn.

  • MD Russ

    This is really awful news about the SNP. If there is a silver lining to it at all it will be that Skyland will get burned to the ground. We used to take overnight trips on the Skyline Drive on our motorcycle or in our classic convertible, staying at Skyland. The place has gone steadily downhill since the Park Service contracted out the Lodge and the accommodations have deteriorated into slums with the service and food in the Taproom and dining room piss poor. We won’t even stop there for lunch anymore.

    But the park is beautiful and a national treasure. Just don’t use the contracted concessions. The last time I checked the concessionaire was Aramark, the same people who invented airline food in the 1960’s.

  • John J. Kelly

    Can we access Old Rag Mountain Trail with the forest fire?

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