Friday, March 25, 2011

Auxier Ridge in Red River Gorge reopens after wildfire

Effective today, the Auxier Ridge area of the Red River Gorge is reopened to the public, including Tunnel Ridge Road and all trails.

Forest Supervisor Frank Beum of the Daniel Boone National Forest ordered the Auxier Ridge area closed last October after a destructive wildfire burned 1,640 acres. The fire was illegally set during a declared fire ban under drought conditions.

“Since the wildfire, we have been working to restore the Auxier Ridge area and make it safe for visitors,” said Dave Manner, District Ranger of the Cumberland Ranger District.

“We have removed numerous fire-damaged trees along roads and trails,” said Manner. “Other work has included soil stabilization and trail repairs where the soil collapsed or eroded.”

Following the Auxier Ridge wildfire, Forest Service specialists spent several weeks assessing resource damages on soil, water and vegetation. Along the ridge tops, where the fire burned extremely hot, the damages were extensive.

Under exceeding drought conditions last October, the fire burned tree roots underground, causing trees to fall or become unstable. The burned tree roots caused soil to collapse, creating trenches across some trails.

In some areas, burned-out stump holes were nearly two feet deep. Trees and rocks slid downhill, requiring extensive cleanup efforts.

Throughout the Auxier Ridge area, trees remain standing but damaged. Many trees are nearly severed at the base, which could become hazardous during high wind.

“When entering the general forest area of Auxier Ridge, away from roads and trails, visitors will need to use caution and watch for trees that could break or fall,” added Manner. “You especially want to look for potentially hazardous trees when selecting a backcountry campsite.”

No fires bans are declared at this time in the Daniel Boone National Forest.

The three individuals who were responsible for the fire (via an illegal campfire), have never been caught.

For more information on hiking in Red River Gorge, please click here.



Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

Thank you for sharing this story; I'm sorry that so much damage was caused by these irresponsible (to put it mildly) folks. It just goes to show how important it is to manage or even avoid starting campfires.

Casey said...

That area has been closed for what seems like ages. I was down there in early March and had to re-plan my hikes because of the closures. I heard of, saw, or knew of many many backpackers who simply ignored the closure and hiked in anyways. Also, don't forget, mistakes do happen. We have probably all been in the mindset at one point or another where we say "Oh, I can keep this fire under control who cares about a stupid burn ban." I'll own up to that. Sometimes all it takes is a bad decision at the wrong time to precipitate terrible results. I don't pretend to know or understand the situation or mindset of whomever started this unfortunate fire, but I also can't call them irresponsible or ignorant either without knowing the full scope of this story.

It's so beautiful down there. Hopefully the area is recovering quickly!

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

According to the DBNF website, the fire started around midnight, and the three campers were seen running away from the fire. Investigators were able to obtain a clue when they found a sales receipt near the campsite that led them to a security camera photo of 2 of the 3 when they made a purchase at a store in Northern KY.

Totally agree that people make mistakes, but after running from the scene they probably lost any chance of making that argument.