On Friday morning, U.S. Forest Service officials reopened a portion of Tunnel Ridge Road and some trails in the Red River Gorge, according to a news release. These areas were closed last month due to wildfires in the Grays Arch and Auxier Ridge areas, which were started from escaped campfires.
All trails in the Grays Arch area off Tunnel Ridge Road are open to hikers except for Rush Ridge Trail # 227. Tunnel Ridge Road remains closed past the Grays Arch Trailhead.
The Auxier Ridge area, including the trail system, will remain closed while the roads and trails are assessed for damages and potential safety hazards.
The extremely dry weather conditions caused the wildfires to burn unusually hot, causing trees to burn at the base and fall across the roads and trails. Along some trails, the trail tread is damaged where the fire burned tree roots underground, leaving large holes.
A fire ban remains in effect for the Red River Gorge. No campfires or other open flames are currently permitted.
The fine for having a fire on national forest lands during a declared fire ban is $500 minimum and a mandatory appearance in federal court. Up to six months imprisonment also may be incurred. Individuals who allow a campfire to escape and result in a wildfire may be required to pay restitution for suppression costs.