BEDFORD, Va. (WFXR) — The Matts Creek wildfire in Bedford County is still on the move. As of Nov. 17, the fire which started Sunday, Nov. 12 remains at only about two percent containment.
Officials estimate it’s scorched over 5,000 acres so far.
Residents and crews tell WFXR News that the rate and impact of the fire are unlike anything they’ve seen in the Bedford area. However, they are grateful for the support they have received.
“I think it’s really awesome that they have crews from out west who have more expertise in dealing with these wildfires coming out to help us cause we need all the help we can get,” said Becki Wells, a Lexington resident.
On Friday, officials in Bedford updated the public on the fire that has spread to different counties. Flo Kilonzo, a Forest resident, came to Bedford to give assisting crews water. She shared that the fire was nothing she expected.
“You hear about California wildfires you never think that it would be in your backyard,” said Kilonzo. “That’s crazy, it’s actually surreal that it’s happening right here, it’s wild.
More than 250 fire personnel have been assigned to fight the fires. Local fighters in the area said it’s grown to an unprecedented rate, so they’re grateful for the help.
“If my understanding of history is correct over 5,000 acres is the biggest fire in history for Bedford County,” said Brandon Cocke, captain of the Big Island Fire Department in Bedford. “The Forest Service is routine to them so we are fortunate to have them up here doing their thing, they are the experts in this type of fire. The Red Team came in today and they are the elite of the elite.”
The Southern Red Team, an interagency incident management team, has taken the lead over the fire now. They hope by using their outside resources – local fighters will be available should anything happen in town. They do not expect the fires to reach private land and hope to contain the fire within the forest. However, they are giving homeowners some advice about keeping their homes safe.
“Every day there are more leaves, so it’s a fuel load. All it needs is an ignition source,” said Joe Mazzeo, the public information officer for the Southern Red Team. “Having clear space around your home, up to 30 feet, doesn’t have to be nuked, doesn’t have to be clean but just reduce the chance of fire spread.”
One concern officials are stressing right now is hunters in the forest who could get lost or slow down the fire fighter’s operations. They are asking them to avoid the immediate fire area.
On Saturday, Nov. 18, they expect higher winds to fan the flames. They’re planning to adapt the resources they have to meet the increased burning.
If you would like to help out with the efforts. The Big Island Fire Department said they have received plenty of water donations, but they are welcoming food donations. They ask that you drop it off at the firehouse.
Officials say the biggest way the community can help is by following fire safety guidelines put in place to prevent fires like burn bans. They say residents should work on protecting their homes, preparing now for something that may happen down the road.