A wildfire that began three weeks ago in the Red River Gorge is nearly 100% contained, but there are still a few areas that continue to smolder. The blaze that began after a campfire got out of control has burned roughly 1,650 acres in the Auxier Ridge area of the Gorge, which is located in the Daniel Boone National Forest of east-central Kentucky.
Seventy-five firefighters and a helicopter were needed to suppress flames that reached as much as 40 feet high in some places. An entire section of the Gorge was closed, including the popular Tunnel Ridge Road, as well as a part of Ky. 77 from Nada Tunnel to the Martin's Fork parking area.
Yesterday morning U.S. Forest Service officials reopened a portion of Tunnel Ridge Road as well as several trails in the area.
All trails in the Grays Arch area off Tunnel Ridge Road are open to hikers except for Rush Ridge Trail #227. Tunnel Ridge Road remains closed past the Grays Arch Trailhead. The Auxier Ridge area, including the trail system, will remain closed while the roads and trails are assessed for damages and potential safety hazards.
The extremely dry weather conditions caused the wildfires to burn unusually hot, causing trees to burn at the base and fall across the roads and trails. Along some trails, the trail tread is damaged where the fire burned tree roots underground, leaving large holes.
A fire ban remains in effect for the Red River Gorge. No campfires or other open flames are currently permitted. The fine for having a fire on national forest lands during a declared fire ban is $500 minimum and a mandatory appearance in federal court. Up to six months imprisonment also may be incurred. Individuals who allow a campfire to escape and result in a wildfire may be required to pay restitution for suppression costs.
The U.S. Forest Service is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information that leads to conviction of the individuals responsible for the escaped campfire on Auxier Ridge.
Click here for a map of the area still impacted by the closures.