Fires Burn Across 80,000 Acres in West Virginia
Oct. 30, 1991
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (AP) _ Ash settled on cars, joggers donned masks and visibility was reduced further Wednesday as dozens of fires continued to burn in the East. A volunteer firefighter was killed in Kentucky.
Nearly 400 fires have damaged 80,000 acres in West Virginia since Saturday, the Division of Forestry said. Many of the fires were believed to have been set.
The sun appeared purplish-orange through the haze Wednesday near this Boone County community about 25 miles south of Charleston, where forest rangers and firefighters battled a fire that had burned across 10,000 acres.
The mountainous terrain made it difficult to get water to the fire line, so firefighters tried to contain the blaze and let it burn itself out.
''You can't stop it up close. You have to get away and cut rings around it so it doesn't spread. There's no putting out this fire,'' said Kenneth Dickens of the Coal River Fire Department.
Some firefighters have had little sleep since Saturday.
''Some of them are pretty tired. They've been going for about a week now, and really hard for the past couple of days. They're still out there, though,'' said Alan Miller, head of fire control for the state Division of Forestry.
At least 59 fires in West Virginia were still burning Wednesday, Miller said. Firefighters had built containment lines around some fires, but many of those lines had been covered by fallen leaves, authorities said.
No damage to buildings or major injuries had been reported in West Virginia. Authorities estimated damage Wednesday at more than $20 million. Thick smoke made it difficult to update damage estimates, Miller said.
In Kentucky, hundreds of firefighters battled 21 blazes that covered about 2,500 acres on public land, said Jody Eberly, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Division of Forestry. About 3,000 acres of private woodlands had burned since the weekend, officials said.
Near Fleming-Neon, Ky., in southeastern Kentucky, a 19-year-old volunteer firefighter was killed Tuesday night and three others were injured, one critically, authorities said.
In Tennessee, 300 firefighters worked Wednesday on a 250-acre fire in Cocke County. About 2,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest have burned in the last week in 20 fires.
The region has had dry weather for much of the month, but the National Weather Service said a cold front could bring showers by the weekend.
In West Virginia, Gov. Gaston Caperton on Tuesday banned all outdoor burning and ordered authorities to watch for arsonists.
Visibility at Charleston's Yeager Airport was reduced to about three- quarters of a mile from the normal 10 miles, said controller Chuck Zielinske. The airport remained open.
The fires left a surprise for Joe Legenza at his Charleston home Wednesday: ''I woke up with ash all over my vehicle.''
Two women wore white surgical masks as they jogged along the Charleston riverfront. Kanawha County schools canceled sports practices Wednesday night.
Most of the fires were believed to be the work of arsonists, and at least three people have been arrested, but some were started by the spontaneous combustion of coal refuse in abandoned mines, officials said.
Smoke from fires in Kentucky and West Virginia had blown as far as northern Ohio on Wednesday.