HARRISONBURG — The National Forest Serviced announced Friday that a prescribed burn in George Washington National Forest of just more than 4,500 acres is expected to take begin tomorrow or early next week.
Once started, forest officials say smoke from the Cub Run Prescribed Burn may be visible near Massanutten, Stanley, Shenandoah and surrounding communities for several days.
According to the Forest Service, the prescribed burn could start today, but weather conditions could delay operations until Monday or Tuesday.
The Forest Service statement says the burn unit includes both Second Mountain and Third Mountain of Massanutten Mountain, which is in Page and Rockingham counties.
The burn consists of 4,505 acres of mountainous National Forest land in the GW’s Lee Ranger District. Fire personnel have been prepping the area by clearing out a control line around the proposed burn area.
The burn will take at least three days “to complete ignition,” according to the Forest Service, although officials say residents and visitors can expect to see smoke in the area for a week or two once the it begins.
About 30 firefighters and support staff, including two engines, a dozer and a helicopter, are assisting with the prescribed burn.
Motorists are asked to avoid Cub Run and Pitt Springs roads, which may be closed as needed. The following trails also will be temporarily closed: Massanutten South, Fridley Run, Martins Bottom, Second Mountain, Morgan Run and Pitt Springs Lookout.
The Boones Run Shelter also will be closed during the prescribed burn.
According to the Forest Service, the burn is being conducted to reintroduce critical plant and wildlife habitat to the area, while also reducing accumulations of forest debris.
Fuels, such as grass, leaves and brush, accumulate and create fire hazards, forest officials say. By burning the area under controlled conditions these fuels are removed, decreasing the amount of fuel that is available to burn during a wildfire.
Removing accumulations of forest debris also will reduce the vulnerability of catastrophic wildfire to the Massanutten community, according to the Forest Service statement.
Homeowners can learn more about making their homes less susceptible to wildfires online at www.firewise.org.
For prescribed fire information, visit Inciweb at http://inciweb.nwcg.gov.