Crews continue battle against wildfire at Ky. state park

Firefighters have been at the park for days on end, and they still don’t know how long it will last.
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 11:30 AM EDT
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POWELL COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - A forest fire has been burning since Monday at Natural Bridge State Park.

Firefighters have been at the park for days on end, and they still don’t know how long it will last.

As of Thursday evening, 50% of the fire is contained. Crews have created control lines and started burn operations.

“This fire compared to others is actually more complicated due to the terrain we’re in right here at the Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge area,” said Kevin Radschweit with the Kentucky Division of Forestry. “We have steep terrain, covered with all sandstone cliff lines that have no crevices or cracks in between them.”

Radschweit wants to put the most emphasis on the hard work and long hours crews have spent trying to control these fires. Crews have come in from all over the country, Oregon, Idaho, and even Puerto Rico, to help.

“So we’re able to flood this with resources to try and narrow this down as much as possible just because of the terrain. It is very hard to access, but with these crews, we could get in there and get good access to make sure the area is safe and secure,” said Radschweit.

Radschweit says while more acres may burn as they work to contain the fire, they have secured the cottage and lodge areas on the east side. A good sign for many who consider the area more than just a place to hike..

For Natural Bridge State Park, this is a unique experience. Officials say there are no burn scars or evidence from recent fires.

Officials say the terrain at the park make it difficult to attack the fire directly. The skylift at the park has become instrumental in helping firefighters and workers.

Because of the difficult terrain, Mike McMillan with the U.S. Forest Service says they anticipate that the fire will grow.

“Today, our operations consist of making a bit bigger box, as we call it, around the fire with our control lines, then letting the fire move towards those control lines and using burning operations from those control lines to neutralize the main fire,” said McMillan.

Although they’re hopeful their strategy will work, they’re unsure when the fire will be 100% contained or when the park’s trails will reopen. Officials say they won’t open the trails until they mitigate any hazards.

On federal land, the Red River Gorge is still open for people to hike.