Evacuations are under way at Grandview Point inside Grand Canyon National Park and expected to be completed within the next hour, as smoke from the Halfway fire pushes toward the South Rim.
Officials with the Kaibab National Forest say the Halfway fire has burned about 60 acres in an area that includes both Forest Service and National Park Service lands.
Forest Service, National Park and Tusayan Fire Department crews have been fighting the blaze, and an airtanker is now dropping loads on the fire.
No roads are closed at this time.
If safety concerns from the smoke develop, Park Service officials say they could close Highway 64 inside the park from Buggeln Hill -- halfway between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View Tower – and the turnout east of Yaki Point.
That would halt through traffic on the only South Rim through-highway and close off Shoshone Point.
According to officials, three separate fires were reported by the Red Butte Lookout burning near Tusayan at about 3 p.m. today. Those fires grew into one larger blaze.
Deputies from the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office have responded to help investigate the fire.
Fire officials from Tusayan say that a column of smoke is visible northeast of the small community, which is located on Highway 64 just south of the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park.
The smoke plume is also visible as far away as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The fire is burning ponderosa pines and oak brush type fuels. The winds are blowing out of the southwest at about 13 mph, which means the fire is headed in the general direction of the national park. Winds could gust as high as 33 mph overnight and tomorrow, when dangerous fire conditions will persist.
The fire is burning in the same area where the Ten-X fire of 2008 burned about 2,000 acres and cost some $200,000 to fight.
Officials expect there could be some disruption of traffic on Highway 64 along the South Rim. The fire’s origins are still under investigation.