The Goshen Pass Fire has burned about 3000 acres in Rockbridge County since it began one week ago and is now believed to be 80% contained by crews with the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries.
Sixty people are on scene using hand tools, such as leaf blowers, rakes and a tool called a Pulaski to establish containment lines. Five dozers are also on scene, along with three engines. Contingency lines should set a perimeter at a maximum of 7400 acres for the fire to burn, all part of the 30,000-acre Goshen Wildlife Management Area.
But as efforts continue to fully contain the fire, which has burned in very difficult-to-reach steep terrain, the Department of Forestry is shifting some of its effort to finding the individual(s) responsible for starting the fire, which forest wardens believe was caused deliberately.
‘Woods arson’ is a felony in Virginia, punishable by up to five years’ prison-time and a $2,500 fine, in addition to the cost of suppressing the fire. Forestry officials remind everyone that this is a crime which can lead to property destruction and death.
In order to find the guilty party in this case, State Forester Bettina Ring is offering a reward of up to $2000 for anyone with information relating to the cause of the fire or the person or people responsible. If you have information like that, you can call the Virginia Department of Forestry office at (540) 363-7002 and report it. Alternatively, you may call the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office at (540) 463-7329 or the Conservation Police with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) at (540) 248-9360. You may also anonymously call the VDOF Arson Tip Line at (434) 220-9053 or the DGIF crime line at (800) 237-5712. The maximum reward – $2000 – is for information that leads to the conviction of an arsonist.