A trash fire that blazed out of control Thursday at the Pressmen's Home has crossed fire lines, placing 20 to 30 homes in jeopardy. About 800 acres have burned, and officials expect a long weekend ahead.
Striggersville Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Jason Murrell said that four buildings on Route 94 and about 75 to 100 acres were already blanketed in flames when they came on the scene Thursday. By midnight Friday, the fire had burned through about 200 acres.
Forestry officials and the Lake View and Bulls Gap volunteer fire departments have been struggling all day to get the blaze contained, according to Murrell. As of about 5 p.m. Friday, the blaze had scorched roughly 800 acres, he said. Click the box below for a video report.
Murrell said the homes in the area are the firefighters' number one priority at this point. "Probably around 20 to 30 residences are in the path of the fire right now," he said. "The residences are a bigger priority then we go to the outbuildings and barns and so forth."
He would be meeting with forestry officials later in the evening to map out a gameplan that he hoped would protect those homes, he said. Meanwhile, they were continuing to work on establishing new fire lines around affected residences along Pressmen's Home Road, Laurel Branch Road and Willis Road, Murrell said.
Hopefully, forestry officials will be able to use their dozers to help make those lines, he added. That would give them "a little comfort zone" around the homes.
Thursday night, forestry officials thought they had the fire contained after a rise in the humidity damped it down some as it approached the lines they'd set.
Then, Murrell said forestry officials called them back to the scene they'd left around midnight because, as he was told, "...early this morning and up around noon, the wind started picking up over here, pushing it across the lines and they were unable to hold it."
This time, they're hoping their efforts will have a better result. "We just cut lines in, let the fire burn to the line and hopefully the line will hold and the fire will put itself out," he said.
The battle against the spreading blaze has some of the firefighters fairly worn out, Murrell said, "but it's a job that we gotta do, so we'll do the best that we can."
He expected they would be working on the fire throughout the weekend at the very least, though there was a possibility they might not be able to clear out until as late as Monday or Tuesday. Forestry officials, he said, would probably remain on the scene much longer than that.
Murrell's advice to the community was: "If you're gonna burn, make sure the wind's not (blowing,) get a permit, and to be on the safe side, most volunteer fire departments will come out and stand by while you're burning something so that way it doesn't lead in to something like this."
The fire began around 1:30 p.m.Thursday after a construction worker set fire to some scrap wood and the wind picked up and sent the fire up the ridge into the woods, Murrell said.
Meanwhile, some southwest Virginia firefighters were busy Friday battling a few persistent blazes of their own. Gate City volunteer firefighter Stewart Williams said a midafternoon fire sparked by either a power line or a transformer had them struggling for about three hours to snuff a fire that blackened about 20 acres or so in the Big Cut area of the Daniel Boone community.
Just when they were ready to return to the station around 6 p.m., the Weber City Fire Department called to ask for their help in battling another blaze in the West Carters Valley area behind Jack's Market. He couldn't provide any further details about that fire.