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The views expressed in this article belong to the reporter, and do not reflect the views held by Rockbridge County High School, the Prowler Staff, and its members.

Rain Arrives After Matts Creek Wildfire Disrupts School Schedule

School Entrance by Will Gibbs
“School Entrance” by Will Gibbs

Rockbridge County Public Schools have been closed the past four school days due to air quality and other concerns caused by the Matts Creek Wildfire, started in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest Nov. 12.

Smoke from the fire first arrived at the school during lunch Nov. 15. Consequently, the athletic department canceled all after school activities due to “air quality concerns.” Soon after, the Rockbridge County Public Schools administration canceled school for the next day, saying “[A]ll weather forecast indications point to similar, if not worse, air quality conditions for Thursday…” As conditions worsened Nov. 17 with the fire growing, the administration canceled school for that day, too. 

RCHS student and resident of Natural Bridge, Nicole Black, described the conditions at its worst: “[Ash was] raining down from the sky — it looked like snow,” Black said. “[The smoke] stung your nostrils and the back of your throat.”

After a break on Nov. 18, unhealthy conditions returned Nov. 19. Thus, later that evening, the Rockbridge County Public Schools administration announced that “out of an abundance of caution” school would be closed Nov. 20 and 21, which were the two days leading up to Thanksgiving Break.

Fortunately, the wildfire received two inches of rainfall Nov. 21.

“Because of the rain, the fire is no longer spreading,” said Southern Area Incident Management Red Team Public Information Officer, Joe Mazzeo.

Concerning future plans, Mazzeo said, “Tomorrow [Nov. 22] we plan to assess the effects of the rain and begin suppression repair.”

“Smoke impact should be minimal from now on,” said Mazzeo. “People should be able to resume their normal activities.”

Lastly, Mazzeo gave a reminder, saying, “Remain cautious and fire aware.”

At the time of writing, the Matts Creek Wildfire is 91% contained and 11,020 acres. Rockbridge County Public Schools reopened Nov. 27.

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About the Contributor
Will Gibbs, Reporter
Will Gibbs is a senior at RCHS and first-year reporter. He is involved in golf, swimming, and track as well as Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Latin Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and National Honor Society. After high school, Gibbs plans to pursue a business degree at a four year college and swim on the school’s team. In his free time, Gibbs likes to bike local trails and play with his dog, Ginger.

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