Reward for people that lit campfire that caused Red River Gorge fires

WINCHESTER, KY (WAVE) - The U.S. Forest Service is offering a reward up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of individuals responsible for an escaped campfire in the Red River Gorge. The fire began just after midnight on Saturday. Over 115 acres burned before rain slowed the progress.

The escaped campfire led to an emergency Forest Supervisor's Order that closed an estimated 3,000 acres, including roads and trails, in the Auxier Ridge area. Forest Service officials spent most of Sunday morning searching for backcountry campers and hikers who had vehicles parked in the closure area. All visitors associated with the vehicles were found safe.

Forest Service law enforcement officers witnessed three individuals running from the escaped campfire and getting into their car parked along Kentucky Highway 77. An investigation is under way. According to law enforcement, the individuals starting the fire would be best served by coming forward.

On Oct. 8, a Forest Supervisor's Order was issued that banned fire on national forest lands in the Red River Gorge and Cave Run Lake areas. The fire ban was in effect at the time of the escaped campfire on Auxier Ridge. The fire ban remains effect until further notice.

Since the fire ban, Forest Service law enforcement officers have issued nearly 200 violations for illegal campfires in the Red River Gorge.

"We have the fire ban information posted at every entrance into the Red River Gorge," said Forest Supervisor Frank Beum. "In addition, visitors have been provided information about the fire ban, the drought conditions, and the risk of wildfire on our website and through the media."

"It is critical that campers observe the fire ban," added Beum. "During these extremely dry weather conditions, an escaped campfire can put other visitors at serious risk."

Anyone with information about this fire is asked to call Forest Service Patrol Captain Kimberly Kipp at 606-875-5042.