St. George, UT, USA –A fire that started from natural causes three weeks ago has burned 58,470 acres as of Thursday morning. The Warm Fire resulted in significant closures within the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park and adjoining Forest Service district lands.
“The district is completely closed for public safety. We are assessing that on a day-by-day basis,” said Scott Clemans, public affairs officer for the Kaibab RangerDistrict.
The Warm Fire also halted all travel on Highway 67 from Jacob Lake to the North Rim and caused the cancellation of Grand Canyon Trail Rides and hiking permits. No active fires are burning along Highway 67 and crews with the Arizona Department of public safety are working to clear the road of debris and hazardous trees.
The neighboring communities of Fredonia, Ariz., and Kanab are running with a business-as-usual approach with one noticeable difference.
As many as 81 fire evacuees, most of them seasonal employees of park concessionaires like Xanterra Resorts, will be calling Fredonia High School home for the next few days while fire crews work to contain the fire.
“A lot of them are employees that work for the concessionaires, so they don’t necessarily have a ‘grandma’s house’ to go to,” said Dave Owens, Kane County director of emergency services who helped the American Red Cross coordinate logistics to find shelter for evacuees.
“We really appreciate the Utah Red Cross coming in to take over. We appreciate their fast response. They’ve been running things pretty smoothly,” said Fredonia High School business manager Dorene Mudrow.
“We’re hoping they’re containing the fire and the shelter will close down within the next day or two,” said David Neale, emergency services director for the Greater Salt Lake Area Chapter of the Red Cross. Neale spoke highly of coordination efforts with the concessionaire, school and community organizations.
The Warm Fire, which ignited three miles south of Jacob Lake and west of Highway 67, was initially managed as a wildland fire use fire and has now enlisted the help of 884 total personnel, six helicopters, 57 engines and 10 bulldozers. Now at 45 percent containment, officials are hopeful with recent weather and fire behaviors to have the blaze in full containment within a few days. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon remains in full operation.