BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — The Matts Creek wildfire has now burned over 2,750 acres and is only 2% contained. Bedford County and the surrounding areas are now under an air quality “code red” as smoke continues to flood the region.
One Big Island resident, Chelsea Harlan, tells WFXR News, that seeing her community go up in smoke has been heartbreaking.
“It’s really just devastating to see, to not see the mountains I mean these are mountains that I’ve looked out at pretty much every single day… it’s just scary to think about,” said Harlan.
Chelsea Harlan grew up in Big Island and says she never thought she would experience something quite like this so close to home.
“Certainly never ever, ever thought that I would ever have to encounter that sort of thing here,” she shared.
And rising air quality concerns have left some parents, like Serena Lilly, worried about their children’s safety.
“When she got home yesterday, getting her off the bus, all you could smell was the smoke I mean I couldn’t see the mountains, couldn’t see anything. She got off the bus actually wearing a mask, and her teacher told her to put it on because of the air quality outside,” said Lilly.
Due to these concerns, Big Island Elementary School dismissed students at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 16. The Rockbridge, Lexington, and Buena Vista schools chose to cancel classes entirely.
Stephanie Chapman with the U.S. Forest Service says there are currently 120 people working on the fire and they say there is something the community can do to help out.
“The best thing to help our fighters is to be extraordinarily cautious with fire,” said Chapman.
This means no open flames, and being sure to keep flammable objects away from your home.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, but Chapman the reason it’s grown to this magnitude is because of a drought and with the leaves falling it creates the perfect environment for wildfire to spread.