WINCHESTER — The U.S. Forest Service is using fire to "burn out" a wildfire that began last weekend at the Red River Gorge.
Firefighters wanted to speed up containment efforts, so they decided to burn out the Auxier Ridge wildfire in the Gorge, according to a news release.
The fire is the result of an illegal campfire set during a declared fire ban.
On Friday morning, the fire had grown to nearly 500 acres. After burn-out efforts, the fire is expected to have burned more than 1,600 acres. This increase is due to the rugged topography in the area, limiting fire-line development on the ground.
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A helicopter will be used to ignite the ridge tops. The fire will be allowed to burn downhill until all of the containment area has burned.
"The dry winds and autumn leaf fall has contributed to the Auxier Ridge wildfire rekindling throughout the week," Mitch Gandy, fire management officer with the Daniel Boone National Forest, said in the news release. "With the burnout, it will be easier to keep the fire within the containment lines, which is safer for our firefighters and the public."
Area road and trail closings in popular visitation areas remain in effect. All of Tunnel Ridge Road is closed. Ky. 77 is closed from the Nada tunnel to the Martin's Fork parking area.
Forest Service law enforcement officers witnessed three people running from the out-of-control campfire and getting into a car. The Forest Service is offering a reward as high as $1,000 for information that leads to the conviction of those who started the blaze.
Meanwhile, a fire ban remains in effect for national forest lands in the Red River Gorge. The penalty for violating the ban is a minimum fine of $500 and up to six months in jail. Anyone who allows a fire to escape and result in a wildfire might be required to pay restitution for suppression costs.
Anyone with information about the fire on Auxier Ridge is asked to call Forest Service Patrol Capt. Kimberly Kipp at (606) 875-5042.