Reporter: David Tate
Rockbridge Co., VA – The recent rain has officially put an end to those fires in the National Forest that have been burning for nearly two weeks now.
In all, almost 36,000 acres were scorched. However, Wednesday officials say the fires are 100% contained, and out for the most part.
Some crews began leaving the area Tuesday, and will continue to make their way home through Saturday.
A week ago the Rich Hole Wildlife Area was shrouded in smoke that has since been replaced by a lot of rain-formed fog. Beneath the forest canopy the damage of this historic group of fires is clear with 35,821 acres scorched.
"Monday afternoon we got the rest of the burnout done and control lines. We mopped on it pretty hard yesterday and of course we didn't show it completely contained until the rain came. So with the rain today, we will show it contained," said Mike Wilkins, Blue Team incident commander.
Meteorologist Phil Manuel is also part of the Blue Team that responded to this fire. Seeing the 1/2 inch of rain by noon Wednesday was a good sight indeed.
"A burst of rain will evaporate pretty quickly in an hour or two once the sun comes out, but all of this rain… it lasts for a long time, and is really good for putting fires out," said Manuel.
The arrival of the rain was quickly followed by the arrival of crews from all over the region; nearly 700 in all that came to help.
"It makes it easy on the firefighters. It's a signal they get to go home," said Manuel.
But first, everything needs to be returned and processed; from equipment to time sheets. It's a sure sign that things have come to an end for national oversight as the mop up returns to local federal management.
"I think more than anything else it's a relief for the local folks," said Wilkins.
Remarkably, even with this record fire event, no structures were lost and there were only a handful of very minor injuries among the firefighters.