On November 12, 2023, a small fire measuring roughly 15 acres was discovered in the James River Face Wilderness and Blue Ridge Parkway area in Bedford County, Virginia. With the region in “Extreme Drought” conditions, the Matts Creek Fire reached 10,106 acres burnt by the morning of November 20. Despite aggressive attack by firefighters, water-bearing aircraft and helicopters, and support personnel, containment has reached only 27 percent. As of November 20, there are 317 total personnel working the fire and the cause is undetermined. Parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway near the blaze are closed to traffic.
Heavy smoke produced by the fire has created “Very Unhealthy” air quality, especially between Bedford and Lexington, Virginia. Smoke has also blown northward up the I-81 corridor into Maryland. Smoke is expected to blow more westerly throughout November 20. An incoming system is expected to produce substantial rain on November 21-22, which should assist firefighting efforts.
Firefighters continued to watch the Hercules Fire, a small fire that started yesterday across the James River. A local volunteer fire department had responded and contacted crews on the night shift for additional help. The fire was slightly under one acre in size on November 20.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a true-color image of the Matts Creek Fire on November 19. Red “hot spots” mark actively burning fire. Three distinct hot spots are visible in this one fire, with an area of no high heat detected between. This most likely is caused by active burning on the advancing edges of the fire, with the center cooling after being thoroughly burnt several days prior to the date of the image.