UPDATE: Crews working to contain brush fire towards McAfee Knob
-- 7:10 p.m.
Crews are still working to put out an afternoon brush fire in Roanoke County.
Officials say the fire is being handled by a unified command of Roanoke County Fire & Rescue, Virginia Department of Forestry, and the U.S. Forest Service.
Most of the fire is on federal land and the U.S. Forest Service estimates the size at 325 acres, officials say. There are approximately 80 total personnel fighting this fire.
There were some structures threatened in the early stages of the fire but all of those were protected and there are currently no structures threatened. There are currently two helicopters operating with air-water drops.
At this time, officials say there have been no injuries.
Catawba Valley Drive remains closed at Absalom Smith Road and the Appalachian trail from the parking lot at the top of Catawba Mountain. The McAfee Knob trail remains closed as well.
The U.S. Forest Service plans to have crews on this fire overnight and into the morning. Roanoke County Fire & Rescue says they will assist with medical support and some firefighting support as well.
-- 6:00 p.m.
Roanoke County Fire and Rescue responded at about 3:40 p.m. on Sunday, April 29 to Catawba Valley Road for the report of several small wildland fires along the side of the road heading up the mountain towards McAfee Knob.
At the time of this release, officials say the fire is moving rapidly due to the windy conditions. Route 311, Catawba Valley Drive is shut down to all vehicle traffic and motorists are asked to avoid that area, officials say. Also, the Appalachian Trail in the area of McAfee Knob is being evacuated and hikers are asked to avoid this area.
"It initially started out as a lot of spot fires, but we think they probably joined up at this point and now it's one big fire," Clingenpeel said. "First of all what we would like folks to know is Catawba Valley Drive which is route 311 is currently shut down at about the 3700 block of Catawba Valley Drive. So we are asking all motorists to avoid the area from the top of the mountain and the 3700 block. You won't be able to get through either way. So if you can just avoid Route 311 Catawba Valley Drive with any kind of vehicular traffic, that would help us out a lot."
Along with nearly every station from Roanoke County, crews are also receiving assistance from Salem, Elliston, Virginia Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service. Bulldozers and a helicopter are being used to try and stop the fire.
There is no estimate at this time on the size of the fire or on how much has been contained.
-- 4:40 p.m.
VA-311 has been shut down to ensure the safety of all fire units on scene of the brush fire, per Brian Clingenpeel of Roanoke County Fire & Rescue.
“I don’t have an update currently, on the size of the fire. It’s currently moving too quickly to get that. We have all hands on deck to try and stop the fire so I don’t have a good estimate of size. It is moving rather quickly toward McAfee Knob. Right now I don’t believe any structures are threatened in this fire. It’s just a matter of wildland and people on the trail,” Clingenpeel told WDBJ7.
There is no timetable on when the roadway will be reopened.
Fire crews are responding to reports of a brush fire in the Catawba Mountain area near VA-311.
Crews say they are setting up a staging area near the Roanoke Moose Lodge on 3233 Catawba Valley Drive.
At this time, no injuries have been reported and no homes appear to be in danger.