Fire closes parts of Gorge

Officials with the Daniel Boone National Forest have shut down a popular hiking spot after a fire spread through a section of the Red River Gorge on Sunday.

Parts of the Gorge — from east of Ky. 77 and north of Ky. 715 to Gladie Creek — will be closed as firefighters work to contain the blaze that has so far burned 175 acres. The fire probably will blacken more than 1,000 acres by the time it is contained sometime this week, forestry officials said Sunday.

Meanwhile, state forestry officials were fighting fires in Floyd and Pike counties on Saturday and Sunday. This weekend's hot weather and lack of rain combined for ideal conditions for fires, state and federal forestry officials said.

No injuries were reported and no homes or businesses were damaged, fire officials said.

The fire in Red River Gorge was discovered Friday afternoon near a spot called the Indian Staircase. Firefighters are having difficulty containing the blaze because of the terrain, said David Manner, district ranger for the Cumberland Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service.

"It was started on the ridge above the Indian Staircase, and it's burned on the top of the ridge and then dropped off the cliff," Manner said. "So it's burning in several different lines right now."

Firefighters are working to put a fire line around the blaze. Because of the cliffs in the area, it probably will be early this week before the fire can be contained, Manner said.

He said the fire probably was caused by a camper who failed to extinguish a campfire. With higher-than-normal winds and dry weather, just one spark from a fire can cause a forest fire, Manner said.

The weekend fire was one of the largest in the Gorge in the past two years. Last fall, the popular camping and climbing area had two fires, one that burned more than 700 acres and a second of about 60 acres. Both were caused by campfires, Manner said.

State forestry firefighters battled 13 blazes in Eastern Kentucky over the weekend. On Saturday, crews were containing one fire in Floyd County when a second fire on an adjoining ridge was started. The second fire probably was caused by arson, said Adam McGuire, district ranger for the Eastern District of the Kentucky Division of Forestry. The first fire, which began near Prater Creek, is mostly contained, McGuire said. Crews are still working on the second fire.

There also were fires in remote areas of Pike County this weekend, McGuire said.