Crews are working on a fast-growing, human-caused wildfire that has forced the closure of the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway leading to Anthony Lakes and prompted the evacuation of several campgrounds in the area.
The fire, which was reported about 2 p.m. and has grown to an estimated 1,000 acres, is near Bear Butte, about 1 1/2 miles northeast of Anthony Lake. Five engines and at least three helicopters are fighting the blaze. Although the Forest Service has confirmed the fire was human-caused, the agency did not have any other details about how the blaze was ignited.
At 1,000 acres, the Bear Butte fire would be the biggest wildfire east of the crest of the Elkhorn Mountains since the 1960 Anthony fire, which burned about 20,000 acres.
Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, which was scheduled to host the annual Mountain Bike Festival on Saturday, posted this on its Facebook page: Folks: "There is fire that has closed the 73 Rd (Anthony Lakes rd). At this point, we are on hold for our annual Anthony Lakes Mountain Bike Festival. We will mo nitor and update. Please do not attempt to drive up to the area until further notice. Stay safe and as always, please keep the fire fighters in your thoughts!" In a post later Friday evening, the resort announced that the mountain bike festival and food service in the Starbottle would not happen as scheduled.
Peter Johnson, manager of Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort, said an employee who was working on a mountain bike trail saw smoke from the fire, and Johnson reported it to the Forest Service. Johnson said the campgrounds in the Anthony Lakes area were evacuated, and Anthony Lakes closed its restaurant.
The fire is burning near the site of a 1990 blaze that killed most of the trees in an area near the headwaters of Indian Creek. Johnson said the fire appeared to be burning very close to the area burned in the 1990 fire. The area around Bear Butte also has large acreages of dense lodgepole pine trees that grew following the 20,000-acre Anthony fire in 1960.