Fires in Zion Force Backcountry Closure

If you're heading to Zion National Park, I hope you're not planning to head into the backcountry. Beginning today park officials have shut down backcountry travel, including canyoneering, because of fires burning there.

Things got so dicey on the fire lines yesterday that helicopters were used to pull firefighters off the lines. Here's the latest from the park:


The Dakota Hill Fire Complex showed extreme fire activity Wednesday due to high winds, low humidities and low fuel moistures. A Red Flag Warning had been posted by the National Weather Service to alert fire managers to the possibility of extreme fire conditions. All of the fires in the Dakota Hill Complex (Zion 1, 2 and 3) experienced growth Wednesday, but an accurate estimation of size is not available at this time due to smoky conditions in the fire area. Crews worked on containment lines on all the fires until fire activity reached a point that compromised their safety. Little progress was made on containment of the fires.

The largest fire, Zion 3, is burning north of Orderville Canyon and east of the Narrows. It was estimated at over 1,200 acres Wednesday morning and burning in Ponderosa pine and mixed brush fuels.

The other two fires are the Zion 1 (82 acres) and 2 (59 acres). Both acreage estimates are also from Wednesday morning. These two fires are located on Horse Pasture Plateau, southeast of Lava Point, near the West Rim Trail.

Comments

I was planning a West Rim backpack around August 1st in Zion...anyone from Utah, or with a working knowledge of forest fires, think there's any chance the backcountry will reopen by then? If not, I think we'll head to either Great Basin or Esclante.

Mookie,

Predicting fire behavior is a tough one, especially this summer when things are do dang dry across the West. On top of that, the nation's firefighting resources are being stretched way thin, which is hindering response times and the size of attacks.

You can stay up to date on Zion's fire activity at the park's web site, www.nps.gov/zion and then go to the "news" section. I'd consider a different trip, as even if this fire complex is doused by August, that's not to say another won't flare up. There was a start yesterday near Nephi that blew up to 5000 acres really quick.