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Cumberland Gap park wildfire contained

WALTER LITTRELL • Mar 27, 2007 at 1:48 AM

EWING - A wildfire inside Cumberland Gap National Historic Park has been contained, park officials say, but crews are still on hand to monitor the scene in case it should rekindle during this abnormally dry spring.

Acting Park Superintendent Deanna Phillips said early Monday afternoon that crews had just managed to contain the fire, and little information was available at that time.

Phillips said the fire was totally inside the park near the White Rocks north of Ewing, and it is the first wildfire inside the park in the past few years. Because of the odd shape of the fire, an estimate of the number of acres burned was not readily available.

The cause of the fire, which began sometime around noon on Sunday, was also not yet determined.

"We do have some ideas on what may have started the fire," Phillips said. "But I'm reluctant to say at this time because nothing is confirmed. It could have been something as simple as a carelessly tossed cigarette butt because it is so dry."

Phillips said firefighting crews from the National Park Service battled the blaze throughout the day Sunday and all that night in their efforts to control it. Efforts to contain the fire continued into Monday morning.

Park firefighters received valuable assistance from the Thomas Walker Volunteer Fire Department in Ewing, Phillips added, and expressed her appreciation for their help.

Because the chief ranger, who is responsible for overseeing the firefighting efforts and disseminating information, was on the scene the entire time and had gone home to rest once the fire was contained, Phillips did not yet have all the information on the fire.

More information will be available later in the week, Phillips said.

Phillips encouraged park visitors to use caution with fire in the park, especially with cigarettes and other smoking material. Those who have campfires should be certain all fires are completely extinguished, and all cigarettes should be completely extinguished as well, she stressed.

"Because it is so dry, everyone needs to be extremely cautious with anything that can spark a fire," she said.

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