GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. — A prescribed burn designed to reduce fire danger at the Grand Canyon jumped a containment line Wednesday, blanketing some of the park's busiest visitor spots with heavy smoke.
The fire spread to within half a mile of park employee housing, national park spokeswoman Leah McGinnis said.
Access to the canyon's South Rim -- the most frequently visited section of the park -- was cut off for several hours to everyone except park employees, although visitors already in the park were allowed to stay.
Both the south and east entrances were reopened by late afternoon.
"Conditions have really improved and we've turned the corner," another park spokeswoman, Maureen Oltrogge, said late Wednesday, adding that no structures were threatened and all roadways had been reopened.
The popular Mather Point lookout and a canyon visitor information center were closed but were expected to reopen today, Oltrogge said.
No park lodges, restaurants or housing was evacuated, but "people can smell the smoke, and the smoke is highly visible," spokeswoman Donna Nemeth said.
The fire was estimated at about 1,700 acres; no official containment estimates had been made.
Canyon officials had intended to burn 1,620 acres about a mile south of the rim's Grand Canyon Village, which includes campgrounds, lodges, restaurants and other facilities.
About 80 people were fighting the fire Wednesday evening. Oltrogge said most had been part of the prescribed burn crew
Prescribed burns can only be done during brief periods each year, depending on weather conditions.