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Firefighters hope to contain Botetourt Co. fire by Thursday afternoon

BUCHANAN (WSLS 10) - The Virginia Department of Forestry expects a brush fire in northern Botetourt County that's already burned 780 acres to be fully contained by Thursday night.

Crews worked into the early morning while winds were low to make as much progress as possible. The fire is now at 70 percent containment. Crews are hoping to have the fire fully contained by Thursday afternoon. 

Crews will continue to monitor the site into the weekend, even if the fire becomes fully contained, to make sure it doesn't burn past the boundary and to keep homeowners safe. 

Calm weather helped firefighters catch up to the fire that spread quickly after high winds Tuesday.

"We had winds gusting up to 45 miles per hour which made trying to contain the fire much more difficult than what we would normally expect," said Virginia Department of Forestry Assistant Chief Steve Counts.

Low winds Wednesday gave crews more time to clear fire lines to keep the fire in check. 

The Virginia Department of Forestry brought in a helicopter to drop buckets of water on the fire. This is the first time winds have been low enough for water dumps since the fire broke out Monday.

Counts said weather and timing have helped firefighters contain the blaze.

"Especially in the early spring time we don't have leaves on the trees. So the fire's not able to rise above the canopy and move across the landscape like it does in the western fires," he said. "Typically, it makes our fires easier to contain."

In all, it's estimated 1,000 acres will burn before the fire is completely contained. A release from the department of forestry said drivers on Interstate 81 could see smoke and possibly flames as crews get the fire under control.

Plenty of organization have been on scene including the American Red Cross. Volunteer Chuck Hamblin said the agency has served more than 500 meals to crews since Monday.

"That's the best feeling in the world, helping somebody in need," Hamblin said. "We've been deployed on national emergencies. Compared to that this is easy."

The fire has been difficult for crews to access due to its location on a mountain in a heavily wooded area. The cause is still under investigation.