LITTLE RIVER CANYON, Ala. - The fire at Little River Canyon National Preserve is contained but crews from all over the nation are still there, monitoring the hundreds of acres that burned. Its impact is felt, not only in the scorched acres, but in local businesses.
Smoke still lingers in the air, and crews are still on the ground, monitoring the remains of the roughly 350-acre blaze that swept through Little River Canyon, near Martha's Falls over the weekend. “There are a lot of folks that are away from their homes, away from their families, ” said Travis Neppl with the National Park Service.
Neppl traveled from Mississippi to join dozens of crews -- both local and from all over the nation -- to help contain the fire. "We have a hand crew from Puerto Rico, we have smoke jumpers from out west as far as Alaska, we have an engine crew from Oklahoma from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a lot of folks that have come into this area due to the extreme drought to help out with the fire efforts,” Neppl explained.
Officials say the fire started Saturday morning from what they believe was an illegal campfire. That’s under investigation. By Sunday night, the fire was contained.
Crews are working long hours to make sure the blaze doesn’t do any more damage than it already has to roughly 350 acres. "There are definitely days where it’s a grind, you’re putting in a lot of effort and you’re working 16 hour days or more," Neppl said. "Sometimes you work all night, through the night, no sleep.”
Fire crews anticipate staying on the scene until conditions improve. "There are still threats. That’s why we’ll have fire crews out here for days, if not weeks to come,” Neppl added.
Sunday, part of Highway 35 was closed down because the smoke was so thick. In fact, smoke clouds could be seen more than 30 miles away.
Little River RV Park and Campground is just down the road from where the remains of the fire are still smoldering. “At one point the wind shifted and it was blowing directly to the campground, and we had folks who were staying here who were worried," said owner Tim Williams. "They started calling to make sure that the campground was not on fire.”
Williams says because the fire was so close, he and his wife would head down the road to where crews were battling it to get updates. "We went down to the canyon probably about five different times to keep an eye on it, so we could keep people updated so they would know what to expect,” Williams said.
They kept the campers updated throughout the weekend. "Saturday and Sunday both we had 100 percent occupancy, and then when the smoke started moving around, they started leaving. Some left a little bit early because of that,” Williams said.
The campground remains safe and out of the way from where the fire burned, open for visitors. Williams and his wife make sure each camper knows — do not burn right now. "Hopefully we’ll get some rain soon and all of that will go back to normal,” Williams said.