Cumberland Times-News

April 25, 2014

Wildfire fighters welcome rain’s arrival

Wills Mountain fire now contained; 888 acres charred

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— CENTERVILLE, Pa. — The wildfire that began April 19 on state game lands west of Centerville on Wills Mountain was contained early Friday, but not before burning 888 acres, according to a Pennsylvania forestry official.

“It has just started to rain here and that’s welcome,” said Buchanan District Forester Jim Smith at 2 p.m. “The specialized crew (that had been coordinating the firefight) left at 11 a.m.”

The blaze, named the Bear Den Fire, burned a small amount of private land as well. Officials continue to investigate the cause.

The nearest homes to the blaze were hundreds of yards away, according to Smith, who said those locations very likely experienced some inconvenience from smoke.

“The highest point of the fire was about 2,600 feet and the low point about 1,500 feet,” Smith said. “It didn’t get down into the flat land.

“If you are in Centerville on U.S. (Route) 220 and look across the roof of the store there, that’s where the fire was,” Smith explained.

Smith said the fact that no firefighters were injured was remarkable, considering the rocky, steep slopes and the severe heat.

“The response from the community was exceptional, humbling actually,” Smith said. Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mark Grapes allowed the forestry personnel to use their building right across the road from the fire. Food and drink was supplied.

State forestry firefighting crews were put up at the Travel Lodge in Bedford, according to Smith, who said he and the other responders were ready for some rest.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.