Crews Fighting Large Brush Fire Near New River Gorge National Park

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Dimple Bhati via Getty Images)

In southern West Virginia, one of the oldest rivers in the world glitters in the sun between the towering peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. The river and surrounding gorge are so rich in cultural and natural history, so breathtaking, that in 1978, the National Park Service created the New River Gorge National Park to protect and maintain the area and the countless flora and fauna within.

Sadly, however, the spectacular outdoor space is currently under siege by monstrous flames. What began as a small fire on private land quickly grew into a raging inferno, the unquenchable flames reducing everything in their path to ash and ruin.

Emergency crews scattered across the surrounding counties received word of the flames at 3 p.m. on Wednesday (November 9) and gathered near Teays Landing bordering New River Gorge National Park to assess the damage and create a plan. Four volunteer fire departments answered the National Park Service Fire Crew’s call, the five teams working in tandem to control the fire before the park is engulfed in flames.

Around 50 acres of land are currently aflame, creating a difficult task for first responders. Thankfully, help is on the way, albeit from an unlikely source. Fire crews have been watching the weather closely and hope that a second approaching natural disaster will destroy the first.

Hurricane Nicole Could Extinguish the Fire Near New River Gorge National Park

A hurricane is typically a destructive force – in this case, however, it’s just the thing to rid New River Gorge National Park of the devastating flames. The remnants of Hurricane Nicole will hit late Thursday and make their slow way through the region, dousing the park in heavy rain through the night and into Friday morning.

Unfortunately, dry conditions will continue to plague the area for the next several hours. The dryness mixed with the rising winds from the coming storm increases the likelihood that the fire will grow before its extinguished. That prediction is already coming true, in fact, as more brushfires have ignited in the region, Red Flag Warnings sprinkling the area surrounding New River Gorge National Park.

According to Dave Bieri, District Supervisor with the National Park Service, the flames are close enough to the WildRock subdivision that portions of the neighborhood are being evacuated. He clarified, however, that this was merely a precaution. As of now, the fire doesn’t pose a direct threat to the subdivision’s homes or residents.

Ahead of the approaching hurricane, two more fire crews will join the fray. Eve West, the Chief of Interpretation with the New River Gorge, explained that engines from Beckley are on their way, along with an engine from Pennsylvania. Together, the crews will closely monitor the flames overnight and begin “suppression actions” in the morning.