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North Fork Mountain fire continues to smolder after two weeks

Monongahela Forest fire (copy)

This photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service shows a smoke column from a fire in the Monongahela National Forest.

Two weeks after it broke out on a slope of North Fork Mountain in the Monongahela National Forest, the 198-acre North Fire continued to smolder on Monday.

But according to the U.S. Forest Service, the expected arrival of a cold front with possible showers late Monday coupled with the low level of fire activity taking place is making it possible for many firefighters to begin returning home.

A total of 132 firefighters were on the scene Monday to patrol and monitor the fire, which has burned a mosaic pattern through through the forest on a western slope of North Fork Mountain. On Sunday, an aircraft rigged with infrared imaging gear scanned the fire zone for hot spots, detecting several along the western side of the fire, now considered 51 percent contained.

The cause of the fire, which broke out on Oct. 2, remains under investigation.

In addition to Forest Service firefighters, fire crews from the West Virginia Division of Forestry and Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department are battling the blaze, located about 12 miles west of Petersburg.

All Monongahela National Forest lands within Grant County east of the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River to Smoke Hole Road and the Pendleton County line remain closed to the public due to safety concerns. The closure area includes most of the North Fork Mountain Trail, all of Landis and Redman Run trails, and Forest Roads 742 and 214-A.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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