Underground fire in Gloucester still burning

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Aug 11, 2010 - 02:57 PM

An underground fire in Gloucester continues to burn, but does not threaten property. The rare fire is burning in an underground area near the intersection of Burleigh Road and Route 17, encompassing approximately two acres, according to Gloucester Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief J.D. Clements.

Clements said the fire has burned for about two weeks. He thought a rainstorm last week that saturated the ground had extinguished the fire, but discovered over the weekend that it continued to burn.

Clements said the fire is fueled by a layer of organic duff, which is formed when fallen leaves slowly decompose. Layers of duff had built up, he said, ever since the area was last timbered.

Usually, the layer of duff stays relatively moist, but because June and the early part of July were extremely dry, the layer lost most of its moisture, becoming fuel for the fire, which initially could have been started in a number of different ways.

He said the Virginia Department of Forestry was called in early on to form a fire line around the area so that it could not spread.

According to Clements, the fire is not a threat to human safety or to nearby homes, but is more of a nuisance because it has created smoke which lingers on and off in the surrounding area.

"It may go on for several weeks or until we get a significant rainfall," Clements said.