Updated figures from the scene of the Quaker Run Fire suggest the blaze has consumed more than previously reported.
The unified command of local, state and federal authorities on the ground at the Madison County wildfire reported Sunday that the fire now spans 3,877 acres, more than 100 additional acres than what authorities reported 24 hours earlier when they congratulated crews for holding fire lines and protecting the camps and historic landmarks within Shenandoah National Park near the fire’s perimeter.
The increase is “due to more accurate mapping,” officials said in a Sunday update.
That said, authorities said the fire lines meant to contain the flames are holding and the blaze remains 40% contained.
Crews had a productive weekend, they said, “mopping up hot spots, strengthening containment lines, monitoring and patrolling.”
Light rain and the return of cold temperatures are helping to drive down the flashpoint of fuels in the path of the fire, but officials warned Sunday of a “predicted wind event” Monday night that could hinder firefighting efforts.
The Quaker Run Fire, which is about to enter its fourth week, is the largest of the roughly a dozen active wildfires burning in the commonwealth of Virginia. As of Sunday afternoon, there were 201 personnel, seven fire engines, six bulldozers and two helicopters just in Madison County battling the Quaker Run Fire. Personnel on the ground has included Virginia National Guard since last Tuesday, when Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency.
The rocky terrain, intermittent winds, falling leaves and severe drought in much of the region have not helped firefighters’ efforts to keep the blaze under control.
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 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 and Madison County.
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.
There are roughly a dozen fires within state lines, all west of the Fall Line and concentrated along the mountainous western spine of the commonwealth. 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.