Newly established fire lines, 164 personnel, nine fire engines, four helicopters and a little cold rain appear to be keeping the Quaker Run Fire contained.
The wildfire’s spread remained at 3,700 acres on Friday, 670 within Shenandoah National Park, no change from Thursday. Officials said the fire is now 40% contained.
A cold front that arrived Thursday brought gusty winds and isolated showers into the area, helping firefighting efforts at what is now the largest of the roughly a dozen wildfires burning in the commonwealth.
“Light winds and cool moist conditions should reduce fire behavior substantially,” according to a Friday update from the unified command between federal, state and local authorities on the ground. That command has included Virginia National Guard troops since Tuesday, when Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency.
Crews have been working to keep the fire away from Rapidan Camp, also known as Camp Hoover, the former retreat of President Herbert Hoover and first lady Lou Henry Hoover above the confluence of the Mill and Laurel prongs of the Rapidan River. The lodge, often called the Brown House during Hoover’s administration, served as a getaway for the president between 1929 and 1933; it is considered a precursor to Camp David today.
“Crews are making every effort to protect Camp Hoover,” the Virginia Department of Forestry said in a Friday statement, “putting fire hoses, water tanks and sprinkler heads in and around the camp.”
The National Park Service, which oversees Rapidan Camp, thanked crews for their work to protect the landmark.
“They have done a lot of preparation to protect Rapidan Camp, the National Historic Landmark within the Park,” the National Park Service said in a statement. “Rain across much of the area has been much appreciated and firefighters continue their work.”
Northeast of the camp, a strategic burn was conducted Thursday south of Upper Dark Hollow Trail, a 4-mile trail near the village of Syria in Madison County where the fire first started on Oct. 24. The state Department of Forestry said Friday the burn should help prevent the fire’s spread to the northeast.
“Firefighters were challenged by weather conditions during the day but completed the operation successfully,” the state agency said. “They also held and strengthened containment lines, mopped up and patrolled.”
While no residences or other structures have been damaged to date, residents living near Syria, specifically north of Finks Hollow Lane near Shenandoah’s eastern boundary, have been urged to evacuate. Crews have also added “extra protection,” including widened fire lines and added patrols, around structures near the fire’s path.
The National Park Service has issued daily reminders that trails near the flames remain closed and a burn ban is in effect for all of Shenandoah National Park. A burn ban is also in effect for all of Madison County, according to local authorities there.
Trail closures within Shenandoah include:
Graves Mill Trail from the intersection of the Staunton River Trail to the Rapidan Fire Road.Wilhite Wagon Trail.Mills Prong Trail.Mill Prong Horse Trail.Stony Mountain Trail.Fork Mountain Trail.Laurel Prong from Cat Knob intersection.Upper Dark Hollow Trail.And the lower Rapidan Fire Road.
While they remain open, Whiteoak Canyon and Old Rag trails have seen a tremendous amount of smoke, and the National Park Service has urged hikers take extra precautions there or avoid the trails entirely.
Power remains out in the Big Meadows area of the park after lines were cut a week ago. Big Meadows remains open to visitors, however, and generators are operating and keeping the visitor center and campground there open.
The Quaker Run Fire will not be affecting Veterans Day plans within the park.
On Saturday, the National Park Service plans to host anglers from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing at Byrd Visitor Center at mile 51 on Skyline Drive within the Big Meadows area.
Project Healing Waters began in 2005, serving wounded soldiers returning from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C. Since then, it has expanded nationwide.
Anglers will be welcoming visitors and veterans at Byrd Visitor Center from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Quaker Run Fire is not the only wildfire burning in Virginia.
As of Friday, there were roughly a dozen fires within state lines, all west of the Fall Line and concentrated along the mountainous western spine of the commonwealth. Severe drought conditions and falling leaves in the region have helped fires spread and hurt firefighting efforts.
The causes of many of the fires, including the Tuggles Gap Fire in Patrick County, the Rocklick Fire in Buchanan County and the Rachel’s Chapel Fire in Dickenson County, remain unknown.
Republican state Sen. Bryce Reeves of Spotsylvania released a statement on Oct. 26 suggesting the Quaker Run Fire was caused by a lightning strike. The Department of Forestry, however, has said the cause of the fire is still under investigation and continues to emphasize that escaped burning debris is the leading cause of wildfires in Virginia.