Bedford fire to continue growing

CENTERVILLE – A forest fire cutting across a Bedford County mountain will likely continue growing for days before it reaches firefighters’ lines, responders said Tuesday, with authorities reducing speed limits on a nearby highway and warning drivers of low-hanging smoke.

A brief shower Tuesday did little to stop the fire, which has spread to hundreds of acres on Wills Mountain south of Bedford, said Glenn Bell, a spokesman for the state incident management teams taking part in the response. Firefighters had burned and dug a cordon around 50 percent of the fire by Tuesday afternoon, he said, and would have to use heavy equipment to surround the rest.

“There’s always the possibility it could sneak around our lines. … Then we’re back to the proverbial races,” he said.

The fire doesn’t threaten any homes, Bedford County Emergency Management Director Dave Cubbison told the commissioners at their Tuesday meeting. But smoke could reduce divers’ visibility as weather today becomes riskier, officials noted.

Citing smoke risks, PennDOT has reduced the speed limit to 45 mph on parts of Route 220, with the restriction set to continue until the blaze is under control.

The National Weather Service included Bedford in a list of counties under “fire risk” today, noting that wildfires could spread rapidly and urging residents not to start outdoor fires.

While Tuesday’s rain would seem to help responders, Bell said the wet conditions hampered efforts to burn a controlled circle around the forest fire.

“The rain we’ve had wasn’t very good. There’s sunshine, winds are high – it’s not very good for fire control,” Bell said. “It gives people a false sense of, ‘We’re good.'”

Cubbison urged drivers to look out for emergency vehicles, which run frequently along roads near the Cumberland Valley Fire Department staging area. The response has moved mostly to the ground, with aircraft pulled back as fire lines are established.

“I think it will be with us a few more days,” Cubbison said.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.