Wildfire closes trails around Natural Bridge

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, April 19, 2023

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A large wildfire at Natural Bridge State Resort Park and Nature Preserve in Powell County, one of Kentucky’s most popular tourist attractions, has closed all trails, although the lodge and cottages remain open.

More than four dozen firefighters from the Kentucky Division of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service Daniel Boone National Forest, and local fire departments, responded with multiple engines and aerial resources to the five-acre fire in the Slade community, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

The fire, which began late Monday, is located near the sky bridge platform and is burning on state-owned land, which is also a dedicated nature preserve.

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The Middlefork Volunteer Fire Department said in a Tuesday afternoon Facebook post that the fire is contained, but trails will remain closed, “while state forestry conducts mop up operations (approximately 3 days).  Please stay out of the area to allow crews to move about as necessary.  Special thanks to business owner Steve Mann who opened the sky lift to ferry firefighters up the mountain and stayed at the top over night to defend his business.”

The cause of the wildfire is under investigation.

All parking lots in the park, except the lodge parking lot, remain closed to the public. While there is no current danger to the park’s lodge and cottages, it is unknown when the park will be able to reopen its trails.   

“Kentucky is still in spring wildfire hazard season, which lasts until April 30, and we urge everyone to use great caution when outdoors or when burning debris during this season,” said Division of Forestry Director/State Forester Brandon Howard.

During this time, state law prohibits any person to burn between the daylight hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. in or within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland.

The Kentucky Division of Forestry says they have responded to 628 wildland fires since January 1.  While 10% of the wildfires were a result of downed power lines sparking fires during wind events, most of the wildfires have been a result of escaping outdoor debris burning and arson.

April is typically a high wildfire occurrence month and Forestry officials encourage residents considering debris burning to exercise caution to keep people safe, and property and forestland undamaged.  Public efforts can go a long way in reducing the occurrence of wildfires.  Taking extra precautions with debris fires and campfires and being alert to forest arson can eliminate the majority of wildfires that occur in Kentucky.

Report suspicious acts of arson to local law enforcement, the nearest Kentucky State Police post or call the Target Arson Hotline at 1-800-27-ARSON.