Jack Walker Published

Rainfall Helps Contain Wildfires, But Problems Persist For Residents

Smoke rises off of a mountain as a National Guard helicopter dispenses water over wildfires down below.
A West Virginia National Guard helicopter dispenses water over a wildfire in Hardy County.
West Virginia National Guard

Storms swept through West Virginia on Tuesday, knocking down trees and powerlines.

But the rainfall provided an unexpected benefit to communities in the Potomac Highlands and Eastern Panhandle: helping quash fires that have burned for days on end.

Emergency responders are continuing to monitor the region after extensive wildfires burned through more than 5,000 acres in late March.

All of the wildfires have since been contained, which means emergency responders have surrounded them to restrict their spread. But portions of the fire continue to burn, and smaller fires have popped up elsewhere in the state.

Now, the added rainfall has helped emergency responders gain further control over the wildfires, according to Assistant State Forester Linda Carnell.

“We’ve already got over an inch of rain,” she said. “Yes, there are hindrances to too much rain. But, in the long run, this will definitely help get the upper edge on all these fires.”

Still, Carnell said rainstorms are often followed by intense winds. That means residents should remain vigilant about fire safety protocol.

In the meantime, though, she said emergency responders are appreciative of the win.

“It’s a good thing. We’re happy for the rain,” Carnell said. “We definitely needed it.”

A puddle reflects trees along a path at Shepherd University.
A large puddle on Shepherd University’s campus Tuesday following heavy rain. Rainstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday helped further contain wildfires in West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands and Eastern Panhandle.

Photo Credit: Jack Walker/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

While the wildfires have been contained, damages continue to affect residents on the ground.

Paul Lewis serves as director of emergency management for Hardy County, one of the areas most affected by the fires. He said the fires have caused significant structural damage, and displaced some residents from their homes.

“We’ve had some houses lost and those people right now are in one of the shelters trying to find a place to relocate,” he said. “There’s at least two families there.”

In addition to homes, several cabins and outbuildings have been destroyed by the flames, he said.

While county officials continue to monitor the situation locally, Lewis said that residents have coordinated with relief organizations to access additional support.

For example, the Catholic Charities of West Virginia has provided resources to residents in need. The Hardy County 4-H Camp, located in Wardensville, has also served as a temporary relief shelter for some residents, he said.

Additionally, Lewis said residents facing damage to their places of residence can contact The American Red Cross of the Greater Shenandoah Valley for further support.

Lewis said the county is still collecting data on the extent of structural damages and further updates will be provided in future.

For more information on wildfire incidents in West Virginia, visit the Division of Forestry’s Fire Report webpage.

Residents affected by the wildfires can contact the Central Appalachian Region of the American Red Cross for support.