Fire crews work on plan to contain Matts Creek Fire

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 5:52 PM EST
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BEDFORD CO., Va. (WDBJ) - With the Matts Creek fire covering roughly 2800 acres as of Thursday, residents are concerned about the fire spreading to private lands.

Some have asked why more steps aren’t being taken to knock the fire down. Because the fire is burning on national forest lands, crews are limited in what they are allowed to do. For example, heavy equipment like bulldozers isn’t allowed to be used.

Stephanie Chapman is the public information officer for the Matts Creek Fire. She said their newest command team has two primary objectives.

“The first one is the safety of the public firefighters and aviation resources is always our number one priority,” explained Chapman. “And then the other objective is to protect and minimize threats to all private property.”

She added the plan is to have the 120 federal and state firefighters put in containment lines needed to stop the fire.

The James River, Appalachian Trail, and roads surrounding the National Forest lands are natural containment lines.

“This fire is burning primarily within the James River face wilderness where motorized equipment and aircraft are normally prohibited except for emergencies,” said Chapman.

The Forest Supervisor has authorized firefighters to utilize chainsaws, leaf blowers, and aircraft to help with suppression efforts.

Chapman said the public needs to be careful while burn bans are in place.

“This is the time when you look around your house, and you start to look at how can I protect my house from a fire,” noted Chapman.

She said to protect your home, do not pile firewood against your house, clean out your gutters, and clean your roof from tree needles.

Local fire departments are patrolling and surveying private lands closer to the fire.

Big Island Volunteer Fire Company said if you see them at or near your home, do not be alarmed.