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Va., Fla., firefighters battle wildfires

April 13, 2012 at 1:51 AM   |   Comments

COVINGTON, Va., April 13 (UPI) -- Virginia and Florida are the front lines of the spring wildfire season in the United States Friday, officials say.

The Roanoke (Va.) Times reported large sections in the state's southwest were being scorched by fires burning out of control.

"Right now, when you look at the entire George Washington National Forest, we have 20,000 acres on fire," Pat Sheridan, head ranger for the Warm Springs and James River district of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, told the newspaper Thursday.

A fire at Alleghany Tunnels, about 10 miles west of Covington, had covered more than 7,650 acres, while one at Rich Hole, 17 miles east of Covington had reached 3,670 acres and the Barbours Creek fire had burned almost 2,700 acres, officials said.

Two fires in Rockingham County, Va., and Hardy County, W.Va., had raced across about 7,000 acres.

"We've implemented closures around each of the wildfires for all of the public. It's obviously for safety reasons," forestry spokeswoman JoBeth Brown said. "Anything adjacent to the fires is going to be closed. Anything around a wildfire."

In Florida, a wildfire has consumed 25,000 to 30,000 acres near the Georgia state line, the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and Tampa Bay Online reported. The blaze, which began April 5 and was being fought by about 100 firefighters, was only 25 percent contained Thursday.

Smoke from the County Line fire could be smelled across the state.

"I would call the current conditions severe, headed toward extreme," Mike Keegan, a state Division of Forestry supervisor, told the Herald-Tribune. "We're not at the worst part yet, but we're headed there."

Tampa Bay Online said the fire was started by a lightning strike.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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