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Officials close popular southern Utah campsite due to fire danger

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Posted at 9:32 PM, Jul 01, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-01 23:32:43-04

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah – Dixie National Forest rangers closed the Oak Grove campground in Leeds canyon Tuesday, due to extreme wildfire conditions.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that we’re in a drought situation,” said Dixie National Forest spokesman Joe Harris. “Temperatures are getting up in the triple digits down here. It’s getting really hot and dry.”

Oak Grove is a small campground with just nine sites, but it’s one of the most popular because of its remote desert setting. Unfortunately that setting also means it’s the first to close when fire danger is high.

“It’s just a one-way in, one-way out area for that campground,” Harris said. “There’s a long road that’s got vegetation on both sides of it, and it’s up at the top of the hill, so if a fire started down low, I don’t know there’s any way we could get people out of there.”

The campground closure is the latest in a series of restrictions throughout southwest Utah and northern Arizona as district fire managers track drought conditions.

It’s only expected to get worse, and with the Fourth of July, those fire worries are increased. Forest rangers hope people will still enjoy the holiday, but urge people to consider leaving the fireworks for another time.

“Not just the Forest Service, the BLM the state, all of them have instituted fire restrictions,” Harris said. “So this might not be the best year for firework displays.”

Campers say although they’re disappointed, they understand the need to be safe.

Jerry Nelson and his family drove from Perry to camp in Oak Grove, but consider it part of the adventure to find another place to spend their vacation.

“Definitely safety of others, and no big major fires -- that’s what’s important,” Nelson said.

Rangers will continue to monitor moisture levels in the canyon. If they improve with summer monsoonal rain, the campground will re-open.