Riggs, Lonely fires burning near Bryce Canyon merge; community meeting scheduled

Smoke from two fires spread across Bryce Canyon and into the Dixie National Forest. Photo taken near Bryce Canyon, Utah, Sept. 11, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two wildfires burning through Bryce Canyon merged on Saturday, becoming a 1,400-acre fire fueled by strong winds that continue to hamper firefighting efforts.

Two fires are spreading across Bryce Canyon and into the Dixie National Forest, the Lonely Fire and the Riggs Fire, Bryce Canyon, Utah, Sept. 11, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service, St. George News

The Lonely Fire and Riggs Fire merged into one at the Lonely Springs Drainage after each grew in size and both continued spreading toward each other over the last several days. The fires are spread across a part of Bryce Canyon National Park, the Dixie National Forest and public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management’s Kanab Field Office.

Both fires were started by lightning strikes, with the Riggs Fire igniting around Aug. 25 and the Lonely Fire igniting Monday.

Read more: Riggs, Lonely fires burn over 1,100 acres across Bryce Canyon, public lands; park road closure announced

The fires have spread quickly fueled by strong winds, which have also hampered mapping efforts by preventing helicopters from flying over the area to map the growth and size of the fire. Weather conditions have also delayed an infrared mapping flight that will not take place until Sunday night.

In the Rainbow Point area, fire crews continue searching for any burning material or hot spots along the Bristlecone Loop trail, as mop-up operations continue with 82 firefighters, three fire engines and four helicopters in the area.

The sprinkler system used to protect park infrastructure and communications sites was relocated to the Willis creek area to support ongoing structure protection efforts to crews on the ground there.

The area that the Riggs and Lonely Fire is burning has not been impacted by fire for many years and has become overgrown. Fire managers have allowed the fire to burn to consume the fuel buildup as well benefit area’s fire-dependent ecosystem.

RIggs Fire and Lonely Fire update for Bryce Canyon release issued at 9 a.m. Sunday by the National Park Service, Omaha, Neb., Sept. 16, 2018 | Image courtesy of National Park Service, St. George News | Click to enlarge

A community meeting has been scheduled to take place Monday at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Bryce Valley High School, which is located at 721 West Bryce Way in Tropic, where updated information will be provided by fire officials.

Bryce Canyon National Park remains open to visitors. Due to firefighting operations occurring in the Rainbow Point area, the main park road in Bryce Canyon National Park is closed at Farview Point overlook between the hours of 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. During daytime hours, the road will be open for an additional 2 miles to Natural Bridge Overlook. All visitor facilities, services and businesses in surrounding communities are not impacted by the fire and remain open.

Trail closures

Within the Dixie National Forest, the Grandview Trail from the Willis Creek junction to Lower Podunk is closed.

In Bryce Canyon National Park, the Riggs Spring Loop Trail is closed, including the connector trail from Riggs Springs to the Grandview Trail.

The Under-the-Rim Trail is also closed from Agua Canyon to Rainbow Point. These trails are temporarily closed for safety and welfare of the public.

Available parking at the Rainbow Point parking lot has been reduced to accommodate firefighting equipment.

This report is based on statements from fire officials and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.



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