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Firefighters still working to keep Catawba Mountain fire from spreading

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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Firefighters are still hard at work Monday trying to keep a fire in Roanoke County from spreading. The fire is covering hundreds of acres on Catawba Mountain.

James Jeavons traveled all the way from Australia to hike the Appalachian Trail. 

"North America and South America are the only ones I hadn't hiked in, so I thought Appalachian Trail is a nice social trail, lots of towns, so I just thought this would be the one to do," said Jeavons.

But little did he know, his journey would be interrupted by a fire on Catawba Mountain. 

"This morning I walked up over McAfee Knob, and coming down past the first shoulder encountered the fire," said Jeavons.

The trail Jeavons traveled is closed to hikers Monday as firefighters work to contain the fire that covers more than 300 acres.

"I didn't know what to expect as I came down this morning. I know there were a lot of firefighters out there last night working on it," said Jeavons. 

"If the winds did shift or if something crossed a line, we don't want to put people in jeopardy," said Brian Clingenpeel, community outreach coordinator for Roanoke County Fire and Rescue.

While the fire didn't stop Jeavons' journey, it is still very much alive. Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and Virginia Department of Forestry as well Roanoke County Fire and Rescue have spent all day trying to stop the smoke and flames.

"We're just trying to strengthen those containment lines and really make sure that they have a good line all the way around the fire so it doesn't go anywhere else," said Clingenpeel.

While crews work to contain the fire, weather conditions are still making it tough. Officials are asking everybody to stop burning for now. 

"We've still got a little bit of a breeze and relative humidity is really low. So yes we need to be careful about that today and the rest of this week," said Clingenpeel.

So far, no injuries have been reported. The Roanoke County Fire Marshal's Office is still investigating how the fire started.