An increase in fire activity forced the closure of Yellowstone National Park’s south entrance and the evacuation of park staff in the area Sunday.

The Berry fire south of Yellowstone caused heavy smoke and falling trees between the south entrance and Lizard Creek Campground on U.S. Highway 89. Lewis Lake Campground remains open with access from the north. Only park visitors driving to the campground or backcountry campsites will be allowed to drive south of the Grant intersection, said a National Park Service news release.

Strong winds and low humidity caused the 16,800 acre wildfire to flare up Sunday afternoon. Lightning sparked the Berry fire and it was discovered on July 25. Grand Teton National Park is managing the fire for ecological benefits, the NPS said.

Three Yellowstone National Park fire engines and several rangers were sent to the burn area to help with structure protection. An engine and a hotshot crew were also transferred to the blaze from the nearby Maple fire.

Conditions are expected to improve Monday with lower temperatures, higher humidity and possible moisture.

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General assignment reporter for the Billings Gazette.