Sleepy Creek fire poses access challenge, taken over by Forestry

Nearly two dozen emergency agencies responded to a small brush fire that grew to encompass more than 10 acres on the northern end of Sleepy Creek Mountain last Wednesday, April 24.

More than 50 firefighters, many relying on rough-terrain vehicles, made access to the fire from subdivision roads near Spruce Pine Hollow Park along Martinsburg Road. The fire, first reported as a quarter acre in size in the power transmission right-of-way, posed a challenge to firefighters who tried to bring water within reach of the flames.

Smoke from the blaze was visible for miles around.

Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company and Hedgesville were dispatched for a brush fire shortly after 11 a.m. in the area of Iron Mine Lane and Martinsburg Road.  Hedgesville units took command as they arrived on the scene first.

Staging for all utilities and trailers was at the roadside park on Route 9. Crews made access to the fire off of Ore Trail at 12:37 p.m. It had grown to 10 acres by that time. Much of the mountain is part of the state-owned Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Additional companies and resources were requested to tackle the blaze, including rough-terrain vehicles and a drone from Berkeley County to determine the extent of the fire and direct firefighters. Some firefighters reached the fire on foot after a steep climb up the mountain.

Fire command was turned over to the West Virginia Division of Forestry at 9:15 p.m.

According to Morgan County 911, West Virginia Forestry monitored the burn and found on Thursday that the fire continued to burn within the fire lines cut by responders.

County residents should not hesitate to call if they see large amounts of smoke visible in an area, said 911 Director Marshall Younker.

In addition to Berkeley Springs, crews from the surrounding area helped battle the large brush fire. Mutual Aid came from Hedgesville,  Great Cacapon, Hancock (Md.), Clear Spring (Md.), Back Creek, Bedington, South Morgan, Needmore (Pa.), Orleans (Md.), Morgan County EMS, Berkeley County, Washington County Wildfire 8 (Md.), Frederick County Wildfire 7 (Md.), Mercersburg (Pa.), St. Thomas (Pa.), Gore Fire & Rescue (Va.), Reynolds Store Fire & Rescue (Va.). Station transfers were handled by Capon Bridge and Paw Paw fire companies.

photo by Zachary Sipe