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Afton Mountain fire contained

The brush fire on Afton Mountain has been 100% contained three days after it was ignited by a vehicle fire off Interstate 64.

The fire had burned a total of 29 acres as of Saturday evening, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry. No residences or other structures were ever in harm’s way.

Officials with the Charlottesville-based state agency said the majority of that acreage was private property and only a handful of acres of Shenandoah National Park were scorched.

Skyline Drive between Rockfish Gap and the Loft Mountain Area, which had been closed for fire crews to access the flames, has reopened.

“The portion of the [Appalachian Trail] between Rockfish and Jarman Gap will remain closed while firefighters continue to ‘mop up’ and monitor the fire,” the National Park Service said in a Saturday statement.

I-64 near mile marker 100 where the fire first started has been fully open since Friday.

The fire was ignited Thursday afternoon. Motorists traveling west on I-64 witnessed a white pickup truck, towing a Winnebago trailer, engulfed in flame on the shoulder of the highway.

Forestry and park service officials said the fire jumped from the vehicle into the nearby woods and began spreading uphill on Afton Mountain.

“Fire tends to burn uphill,” Cory Swift-Turner, a Department of Forestry spokesman, told The Daily Progress on Friday. “That’s because winds that are driven against the mountain go up the hill, and that fuels the fire.”

Albemarle County Fire Rescue was the first to respond to the blaze. Career and volunteer local fire crews were later assisted by a helicopter that had left the now-contained, 4,000-acre Quaker Run Fire in Madison County. The helicopter performed water drops on the fire Thursday to slow its spread as state and federal firefighters traveled to the fire area.

By Friday, those local firefighters and the helicopter had disbanded, replaced by a team of 40 state and federal personnel.

“Big shoutout to the awesome team on the Royal Orchard Fire,” the park service posted to Instagram Saturday.

Wildfires have been burning across the hilly and mountainous western half of Virginia since the start of fall. The largest of which, the Matts Creek Fire in Bedford County, covered more than 7,600 acres, nearly 12 square miles, as of Sunday.

Severe drought and the rough terrain in the region has made it difficult for firefighters to prevent and slow the spread of the fires.

Virginia remains under a state of emergency regarding the wildfires. Counties across central and southwest Virginia as well as the Shenandoah Valley have imposed total burn bans.


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