Interagency incident management team to assume command of Matts Creek fire

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 9:46 PM EST
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BEDFORD CO., Va. (WDBJ) - Smoke from the Matts Creek fire settled over Big Island like heavy morning fog, but with no expectation it would lift any time soon.

Greg Baroch and Kyle Clements are from the Charlottesville area, visiting Bedford County on a hunting trip. And they’ve watched the fire grow over the last few days.

“Monday we found out the fire had started. At that time it was about 150 acres,” Baroch told us. “It wasn’t too bad and with every passing day the smoke has gotten horrible.”

“I’m not really worried about it, but I don’t want to be overconfident either,” Clements said on the front porch of the home he owns near Big Island. “I mean you never know.”

In a news release Thursday afternoon, The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests reported 120 firefighters were working the fire.

We also learned that members of a Complex Interagency Incident Management Team, the Southern Area Red Team, are deploying to the area. They will assess the situation, and ultimately take command of the fire response.

Joe Mazzeo is a public information officer with the interagency incident management team.

“By bringing in a team, we have all the fire resources that are available in the country,” Mazzeo told WDBJ7, “whether it be aircraft, hand crews, dozers, engines, the logistics to support a large incident for a long duration fire.”

Meanwhile, people in the area are watching closely. Amanda Conway lives in Lexington and came to see the smoke with her children and friends. Though removed from the immediate danger, she and others are concerned with the impact on air quality.

“We know a lot of people that it is more problematic for,” Conway said, “so it is concerning, and scary, just generally, even though we don’t have a threat personally.”

The incident management team will have 80 to 90 people managing planning, logistics, operations and information.

And Mazzeo said they will assess the danger to homes in the area, and prepare the response in the event fire reaches the boundaries of the national forest.