Smoke chokes Bryce Canyon National Park as Utah wildfire scorches 3,000 acres

The Left Fork Fire is about 5% contained, officials said.

(Bryce Canyon National Park) Smoke from the Left Fork Fire can be seen from Bryce Canyon National Park.

Editor’s Note: An update to this story can be found here.

The Left Fork Fire continues to rage in Dixie National Forest, having scorched over 3,000 acres as of Tuesday morning with only about 5% containment.

Smoke from the fire is billowing into Bryce Canyon National Park. The blaze is burning approximately 6.5 miles from Rainbow Point, a viewpoint on the southern end of the park, near where officials on Tuesday closed three of the park’s backcountry campsites. The park does not expect additional closures at this time.

Tuesday evening, officials recommended an evacuation of the Bryce Woodland Estates “due to increased wind and fire behavior,” the Kane County Sheriff’s Office said. The community is located southwest of Bryce Canyon National Park, off Highway 89. As of about 5:30 p.m., Kane County deputies and the fire warden were notifying residents and helping them get to safety.

The Left Fork Fire is an outgrowth of a prescribed burn that got out of control on May 9. After it burned 100 acres, officials believed the fire was contained. Due to strong winds and heat this weekend, the fire reignited on Saturday.

Winds picked up on Tuesday afternoon, grounding air support near the southwestern corner of the blaze, where crews were starting to see more activity, Sierra Hellstrom, a spokesperson with a Panguitch-based Type 3 Incident Management Team, told the Tribune.

Air support still is active for other parts of the fire thanks to reduced winds Monday and Tuesday. There, crews have spread retardant and water over spot fires in the area that are burning hot.

There have been no injuries or damage to structures reported.

Officials do not have a time estimate on when the fire might be contained.

“It really depends on the weather the next few days,” Hellstrom said. “If it continues to stay cool and less windy, the higher likelihood of us being able to get it contained a little more quickly. But right now, with the weather being as unpredictable as it is, it can get a lot more difficult to have a time frame.”

Fire managers were able to more effectively assess the fire’s spread Monday due to more favorable weather conditions, which also resulted in minimal fire growth.

On Monday, Dixie National Forest expanded the Area, Road and Trail Closure surrounding the fire. A Type 3 Incident Management Team — a multijurisdictional team of 10 to 20 personnel that responds to extended incidents — also responded to the fire on Monday.

Bryce Canyon officials stated Monday that northwestern winds had reduced smoke in the Bryce Amphitheater area, but smoke and haze persisted throughout the park, particularly on the Southern Scenic Drive.

The park has not experienced any drastic changes in air quality, though officials are telling the public that smoke and haze are a possibility throughout the park.

— Tribune reporter Kolbie Peterson contributed to this story.