Wildfire in Buchanan fully contained, 1,500 acres burned

BOTETOURT COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Botetourt County Fire crews said the wildfire burning in Buchanan was fully contained Friday evening, with a total of 1,500 acres burned. 

Crews battling the Short Hills wildfire in Botetourt County said rain Friday morning helped their cause. Those crews said they lost containment of the fire early Thursday afternoon, when it was was 65 percent contained. 

Botetourt County Fire officials said the fire had crossed into Rockbridge County Thursday evening. Crews had managed to keep it 70 percent contained, but it was down to 60 percent. The fire had burned around 1,000 acres Thursday, according to John Miller, VDOF's director of resource protection. 

Firefighters said they used hand tools on the steep and rocky terrain constructed a quarter-mile-long line between the fire and unburned areas on the mountain. Firefighters said they also used bulldozers to build a 6.5 mile line around the wildfire, which started Monday afternoon. Lower winds, cooler temperatures and a bit more humidity have also helped the efforts.

Miller said, "By the time the fire is completely out, we expect it will have burned just over 1,300 acres."

Officials have said the cause of the fire was due to someone improperly disposing of hot ashes. Ashes from fireplaces and wood stoves can remain hot enough to ignite a fire for several days. To properly dispose of ashes, fire officials said place them in a metal can, douse with water, stir and cover them. Water should be added in and the ashes stirred each day for several days before being removed from the metal container. 

Twenty-five wildland firefighters attacked the fire Wednesday night and there were 42 more there Thursday working to extinguish the blaze. In addition to several types of wildland fire hand tools, crews used five bulldozers and a helicopter.

While the Short Hills Fire is the largest wildfire burning right now, it's not the only one. More than 50 other wildfires have broken out across the state this week and have been suppressed by crews from VDOF and area volunteer fire departments.

Spring wildfire season began February 15 and lasts until April 30, and officials at the VDOF remind that outdoor burning is allowed only between 4:00 p.m. and midnight.  For information and tips about wildfire safety and the proper disposal of hot ashes, please visit www.dof.virginia.gov or http://www.dof.virginia.gov/fire/safety/index.htm