- A wildfire was first reported on Nov. 12, 2023, in Bedford County, Virginia, within the Jefferson National Forest. The wildfire's cause is currently undetermined.
- On Nov. 14, residents of Bedford County began reporting bad smoke and haze.
- The U.S. Forest Service reported on Nov. 15 that the wildfire is located solely within the Jefferson National Forest and does not threaten homes or businesses but is 0 percent contained.
2023 appears to be the year of the wildfire. Between devastating wildfires across Canada and the U.S., wildfire smoke affecting air quality, and New York City covered in enough wildfire haze to turn the city orange, it's clear that wildfires are rapidly becoming an enormous issue. Wildfires are heavily tied to climate change, which makes conditions drier and sustains blazes longer.
In November 2023, a wildfire in Matts Creek, Virginia, startled residents, who began complaining of smoky air on Nov. 14, just two days after the wildfire began. Here's what you need to know about the wildfire in Virginia, including if it's contained and what the U.S. is doing to help the issue.
In November 2023, the Matts Creek wildfire began in Bedford County, Virginia
According to a Facebook post by the U.S. Forest Service on Nov. 15, 2023, the Matts Creek wildfire was first reported on Sunday, Nov. 12., although the cause of the fire remains unknown. The fire is located within National Forest lands, specifically the Jefferson National Forest, and is not in danger of spreading to homes or businesses.
In an update, the U.S. Forest Service continued to report that the blaze threatens no structures but remains 0 percent contained. According to 10 News, the wildfire has consumed 2,700 acres, or the equivalent of 2,000 football fields of forest.
Residents checking AirNow.gov might notice that a smoke outlook has temporarily been issued for West Central Virginia due to the Matts Creek fire.
Firefighters in the area must be extra careful as they battle the blaze because the Jefferson National Forest is federally protected, meaning some fire extinguishing methods are unavailable.
Stephanie Chapman with the U.S. Forest Service told 10 News, "It's located in the wilderness. Wilderness is an area that is set aside by Congress to be an area of special protection. And so essentially when we fight fire in the wilderness, we can't use a bulldozer to put in a fire line, we can't use a chainsaw to remove trees."
Although residents are safe from the fire, smoke will be a major issue in the area, predicted to last until at least Nov. 17. According to WHSV 3, "The southerly wind is transporting the smoke and haze northward. Additionally, because of high pressure overhead the smoke will 'sink' toward the ground and it will be very strong. Not only will you smell smoke, but it can lead to low visibility at times especially Thursday night into Friday morning."
What should you do if the outdoor air quality is bad? Here are a few tips from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
- Limit time outdoors
- Keep windows and doors closed
- Avoid activities that make fine particles indoors, such as smoking or frying food
- Use a portable air filter
- Use fans and air conditioning to stay cool
- Avoid exercise or strenuous activity