U.S. Forest Service crews work to battle Cliff Fire

Crews working to contain fire about 20 acres have burned so far

BEDFORD, Va. – Hikers called the Bedford County fire responders after they saw a fire on the mountain near the Appalachian trail. Officials with the U.S. Forest Service are calling it the ‘Cliff Fire' because of the steep terrain.

Many people couldn't help, but to stop and look as they saw thick smoke fill the sky in Bedford County Friday.

"Someone told me when I was coming down that there was smoke there and, yeah then, when I saw it, I was, like, ‘Oh, my gosh,'" Robert Hodges, a hiker, said.

Thick smoke and some flames could be seen along Route 501, near the Appalachian Trail, where Bedford- Amherst County line meets.

"This is actually early in what we consider the fall wildfire season in Virginia," Peter Irvine, information officer with U.S. Forest Service, said.

Given the hot and dry weather we've been having, fighting the fire has not been easy for U.S. Forest Service crews.

"The conditions today are very hot and somewhat windy, which are making the fire difficult for us to fight safely," Irvine said.

Firefighters at the scene early Friday morning had to be pulled out as they watched the fire grow to cover about 20 acres.

"And we expect the fire will grow some," Irvine said.

A helicopter flew in to help dumping water overhead so crews below can eventually go in on foot. 

For now, officials have closed the trial and footbridge to hikers. They said theyhope to have the fire contained soon.

"If the fire is still going, it depends on what they tell me tomorrow. If so, then I'll be back on the trail," Hodges said.

The fire is on U.S. Forest land and there are no structures or private land threatened.

Fire officials said they believe lightning may have started the fire, but they've called in local law enforcement to investigate. The exact cause is still under investigation.