Lightning starts Cathedral Fire in Zion National Park, trail closures; updated 2 p.m.

Cathedral Fire, started by lightning in Zion National Park, Utah, July 11, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

UPDATED: July 12, 2 p.m. See paragraph captioned Sunday update. Photo and perimeter map added.

ZION NATIONAL PARK – The Cathedral Fire burning just to the west of Angels Landing in Zion National Park was started by lightning from a thunderstorm that passed through the area on the evening of July 9 and first reported Friday night. 

Map indicating location of Cathedral Fire, started by lightning in Zion National Park, Utah, July 9, 2015 | Map courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News
Map indicating location of Cathedral Fire, started by lightning in Zion National Park, Utah, July 9, 2015 | Map courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News | Click on map to enlarge

David Eaker, fire communication and education specialist with Zion National Park, said in a statement released Saturday night that the fire is probably a holdover from the storm. 

The fire is located on Cathedral Mountain in a remote location on a mesa top with difficult access. 

Flames and smoke are visible from the very popular Angels Landing Trail located nearby and from numerous locations in Zion Canyon.   

The fire was estimated at 50 acres as of Saturday night, with active fire behavior, including running and torching of trees on the mesa top.  The fire’s main movement is to the north, Eaker said in his statement, towards a portion of the West Rim Trail.

Sunday update: The fire grew very little over the night and is still estimated at 50 acres Sunday, Eaker said in a release Sunday at 1 p.m. Fire activity Sunday is moderate with creeping and smoldering and occasional torching of trees. The fire has now burned most of the top of Cathedral Mountain and is still slowly working its way to the north.  See perimeter map attached below.

The fire was observed by helicopter late Saturday afternoon and is currently being monitored by park firefighters. 

Due to its location and access and egress issues, it is not safe to put firefighters near the fire, Eaker said. Firefighters would have to be transported by helicopter to the site which is also dangerous.  

The fire is not threating any park resources on the mesa top.  Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem in this area and it is being allowed to play its natural role, Eaker said, as long as there are no direct threats to park resources or visitor safety.

Trail closures

At approximately 5:30 p.m. Saturday, the lower section of the West Rim Trail, from the Grotto to Cabin Springs, was closed due to debris from the fire falling down into Refrigerator Canyon.  This section of the trail is also how park visitors get to the popular Angels Landing Trail.

The closure was caused due to concerns that the debris that fell into Refrigerator Canyon might not allow visitors to pass through safely and from the danger of being struck by the debris. 

Visitors that were on the Angels Landing Trail at the time of the closure were escorted down the trail by firefighters. All visitors were successfully escorted from the trail by Saturday night, Eaker said. The trail will reopen once firefighters feel there is no longer a threat to visitors.         

Meanwhile, Zion National Park is replete with other trails and natural wonders to explore. Read more about a visitor favorite:


Explore: The Narrows of Zion National Park; top-to-bottom guide


Cathedral Fire, started by lightning on July 9 in Zion National Park, Utah, July 11, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News
Cathedral Fire, started by lightning on July 9 in Zion National Park, Utah, July 11, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News
Perimeter map of Cathedral Fire in Zion National Park, Utah, as of  11:30 a.m., July 12, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News
Perimeter map of Cathedral Fire in Zion National Park, Utah, as of 11:30 a.m., July 12, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News
Cathedral Fire, started by lightning on July 9, in Zion National Park, Utah, July 11, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News
Cathedral Fire, started by lightning on July 9, in Zion National Park, Utah, July 11, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

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