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Now in second week, Smoke Hole fire 60 percent contained

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thanks in part to 15 miles of hand-hewn fire lines, more than three miles of bulldozer-carved fire breaks, and helicopter airdrops of more than 9,000 gallons of water, the Smoke Hole fire was considered to be 60 percent contained on Monday, as the blaze entered its second week.

The 2.5-square-mile blaze began Nov. 10 on private land about three miles northeast of Seneca Rocks and quickly spread into the adjacent Monongahela National Forest. Forest Service officials say it is the largest wildfire to occur in the Monongahela in more than 30 years.

Rain that fell Sunday night and early Monday helped cool the blaze, but erratic winds with gusts of up to 40 miles per hour were in the forecast for the fire zone on Monday, creating the potential for accelerating the fire.

About 180 firefighters and support personnel were battling the fire on Monday, making use of six fire engines, two bulldozers and a helicopter equipped with a 160-gallon water bucket. So far, the helicopter crew has made more than 50 air drops on hot spots.

"We continue to make progress under challenging conditions," said Pete Irvine, operations chief for the fire.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.


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