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Fires close part of Lava Beds

Mail Tribune/file photoCavers exit Valentine Cave at Lava Beds National Monument. Parts of the park were closed this week when the Antelope fire broke containment and headed toward the monument.

Concerns about the Antelope fire in Siskiyou County, California, which is rapidly spreading, has caused Lava Beds National Monument to close the southwest section of the park.

Park officials said the Antelope fire spotted out of containment lines near Red Cap Mountain Monday and ran four miles north and then crossed the Forest Road 15 overnight.

“Due to the Antelope fire escaping containment and encroaching on the western boundary of the park, much of Lava Beds National Monument is now closed to visitors” the Park Service said on its Facebook page Thursday.

"The road from the main park entrance station at Gillem's Bluff trailhead parking area to Captain Jacks Stronghold and Hill Road remains open. Petroglyph Point is also open. All other areas and routes remain closed until further notice,“ park officials said. “The fire is encroaching on the portion of the park that did not burn last year in the Caldwell fire.

The closure includes Merrill Cave, the Whitney Butte Trail, Heppe Cave, Mammoth Crater, the Big Nasty Trail, and the Medicine Lake Road. Fleener Chimneys also remains closed due to wasp activity.

The Antelope fire, which began Aug. 1, had burned more than 98,000 acres as of Thursday afternoon, and containment dropped from 83% Tuesday to 77% Thursday.

On Monday afternoon, Medicine Lake residents were ordered to evacuate immediately because of the fast-moving spot fire. The mandatory evacuation order includes areas near Tennant in Siskiyou County’s Butte Valley.

Park officials previously announced the visitor center would be closed for maintenance from Monday, Sept. 13, to Friday, Sept. 17. Rangers will be stationed outside the building during the closure.