Crews face challenges while fighting Matts Creek wildfire

BIG ISLAND, Va. – Crews are still working to contain the Matt Creek wildfire in Bedford County as people in the area struggle with thick smoke in the air.

The fire has burned over 2,500 acres in the Jefferson National Forest.

Crews have to take extra precautions fighting this fire because it is located in the wilderness area of the National Forest, which is federally protected.

“It’s located in the wilderness. Wilderness is an area that is set aside by Congress to be an area of special protection. And so essentially when we fight fire in the wilderness, we can’t use a bulldozer to put in a fire line, we can’t use a chainsaw to remove trees,” said Stephanie Chapman with the U.S. Forest Service.

There are currently three helicopters pulling water out of the James River to dump on the fire and over 80 firefighters on the ground.

While the flames are contained in the National Forest, the smoke is affecting multiple counties.

“one of the reasons you are seeing so much smoke is the winds are very light. And there is not any lift to carry that smoke away. Yesterday, the winds are blowing in a different direction so people who didn’t have smoke yesterday are having today,” said Chapman.

Opening day for rifle season is this Saturday and officials are urging people to be aware of fire restrictions and trail closures.

“There will be hunters in the national forest. So we are encouraging people to be extraordinarily cautious with fire,” said Chapman.

Officials said it could be days before the fire is contained and the smoke subsides.

About the Author:

Sydney joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2021.