1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain is a 900-acre private community in Warren County, Virginia on the top and western side of Blue Mountain, at elevations averaging 1700 feet in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range just north of Front Royal. Our community was founded by a colorful Frenchman named Henri deLongfief in the early 1950’s as a three-season weekend retreat for Washingtonians who lived about 50 miles to the east. Henri loved nature and minimized land clearing by building modest cabins and narrow roads, creating protective covenants to keep the trees alive and the roads narrow. Most of the 900 acres are still covered by dense hardwoods. We have a lot of deer, a few bears and turkey and fox are not uncommon. The Richard G. Thompson Wildlife Management borders us on the east and the Shenandoah River is at our feet to the west.

The first of our 331 homes was constructed in the early 1950s and the numbers grew slowly for the next 35 years. Most were small, two bedroom cabins with wood siding and composition shingle roofs. Thirty years ago buried cisterns were the primary source of water and the local volunteer fire departments had them mapped as emergency sources of water. We have a two-acre lake which now has a hydrant for hook up to a pumper. In the late 80’s, development picked up significantly and continued through the 90’s as higher real estate costs to the east lured buyers to live here year round.

Many of the original cabins were expanded for year-round occupancy. More recently many large and luxurious homes have been built. About half of our lots are undeveloped and are likely to stay that way because the average property owner owns two adjacent one-acre lots.

Blue MountainLike sister developments in the Firewise Community in Virginia, we became interested in wildfire mitigation in about 2005. By 2006 we had joined the Firewise community and had begun the process of clearing out hundreds of tons of deadfall throughout the subdivision. Forty years ago weekenders burned a lot of the deadfall in fireplaces and woodstoves. However, in the last decade two things changed: (1) We were hit with two waves of gypsy moths that killed thousands of the older and larger oaks---about half of which have fallen to the ground. The rest are now falling. (2) Newer residents do not tend to burn firewood but have heat pumps or propane. The fire load grows about one cord of wood per acre per year. Consequently, we remain in the ‘extreme’ category of risk of a forest fire.

Our 2007 participation in the Firewise program was its high point. Members volunteered hundreds of hours of in-kind effort to create nearly 100 large piles of deadfall that the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) chipped and removed. But in 2008, we realized we were up against a huge problem. Many of our members are original owners and have retired here. And the physical exertions required to clear acres of deadfall and dead trees are beyond their capabilities. We have petitioned the local Boy Scout troops to help those members. As a final effort to reduce the risk of a forest fire, we offered local professional wood sellers all the dry oak trees they could handle just to come and cut it up and haul them away. Facing the continuing and growing wildfire threat, and a trend to drier weather, we are now encouraging members to clear brush, deadfall, woodpiles, and other combustibles from a minimum of 30 feet around their structures.

Our roads tend to be fairly straight but many have very steep and narrow sections which are very difficult to navigate in winter. Our roads are at elevations of between 1,000 and 2100 feet above sea level. All fifteen miles of our roads are very narrow and thus easy for a wildfire to jump. In 2009 we plan to continue working with our local VDOF Wildfire Mitigation Specialist and local fire and law enforcement to create an emergency evacuation plan and canopy removal over roads to improve their ability to act as firebreaks.