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Old 05-21-2018, 11:28 AM
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joe joe is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Phoenix, AZ
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Payson Roundup, 1 hour ago, Closure info

Much of the Tonto, Coconino and Apache-Sitgreaves forests will close to public entry on Wednesday in the midst of one of the most dangerous fire seasons in memory.

Anyone violating the closures will face a mandatory court appearance and a fine of up to $5,000 — or $10,000 for groups.

A bone-dry winter and spring, red-flag weather warnings continuing through the week, a rash of early, high-intensity wildfires, hundreds of abandoned campfires, the continuation of an “extreme” drought and over-taxed firefighting resources all prompted the closures.

Stage II fire restrictions remain in effect in the limited areas still open, like Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and the Rim lakes. Also open are the county roads and state highways through the closure area, along with state highways like 87, 260 and 188 to Young.

However, most popular hiking trails, campgrounds and streams remain closed to anyone without a special permit.

The Roundup will have full details on how the closures will affect local businesses and tourism in Friday’s paper, just as the Memorial Day weekend kicks off the traditional summer tourist season.

The closures will likely remain in place or expand until the region gets significant rain — probably at the onset of the monsoon in early July.

In the Tonto National Forest in Rim Country, the closure order covers the following areas:

1. All Tonto National Forest land north of Payson to the Forest boundary (Mogollon Rim) between the Fort Apache Indian Reservation on the eastern boundary, and the Coconino National Forest on the western boundary. The southern boundary of the closure will start at the Fossil Creek Trailhead and head southeasterly along the power line corridor to Arizona State Highway 87 into Payson and then follow Arizona State Highway 260 east from Payson, along National Forest System Road (NFSR) 405 and NFSR 405A to the National Forest System Trail 178 east along Haigler Creek to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

2. All National Forest system lands, roads and trails within the Mount Ord, Four Peaks and Three Bar Wildlife areas.

The Coconino Forest atop the Rim all the way to the Grand Canyon implemented more limited forest closures, which nonetheless cover most of the forest with the exception of some popular recreational areas.

The closures affect the Mogollon Rim area south of State Route 87 and Fossil Creek.

In the Flagstaff Ranger District, the closures affect the following areas:

• San Francisco Peak/Mount Eldon

• Kelly Canyon

• Fay Canyon/Fisher Point

• Mormon Mountain

The closures will also halt work on forest and watershed restoration projects, the operation of campgrounds and facilities operated by concessionaires, outfitters, permit holders, contractors and utilities. Anyone entering forest for that kind of work will need a permit.

The Apache-Sitgreaves Forests atop the Rim stretching from Highway 260 into the White Mountains has also implemented widespread closures. Check the forest website for details. A press release posted on the website did not detail the areas remaining open.

Liza Simmons, acting deputy public affairs specialist for ASNF, said forest managers are currently determining which areas to close — with red flag weather predicted in the White Mountains through this week.

“Closure areas are decided upon by district and forest leadership with the primary objective of providing protection to communities at risk of wildland fire. Prevailing southwest winds are consistent to areas within the geographical location of the ASNFs and will play a role in determining locations of area closures.”

Payson Ranger District Head Ranger Debbie Cress said, “Roads that access private property, many of which are controlled by Gila County, will remain open to allow private landowners access to their property. The forest surrounding the road is closed to all recreational activity”

She noted that Woods Canyon and Willow Springs lakes will remain open, along with Roosevelt Lake.

However, much of Forest Road 300 will close, along with popular areas of the East Verde, Tonto Creek and Fossil Creek. The Forest Service will post signs indicating where closures stop and start.

“We are focused on controlling access to places where we have a history of human-caused fires occurring, such as escaped or abandoned campfires,” said Cress. “We will control access by patrolling popular areas and posting closure notices on major entry roadways. There may be locations where we set up road closures to monitor access.”

Cress noted, “If residents see a crime in progress, they should call 911. If people are seen hiking, camping, or fishing within a closed area on the Tonto National Forest they should contact our dispatch office at 480-457-1551,” said Cress.

“Any area that is closed to the public would include residents, so walking a dog on closed forest roads and trails would be prohibited. Forest closures affect many people, including local businesses, area residents, civic organizations and members of the public. These closures are taken seriously, and violations include fines of up to $5,000 for individuals, and $10,000 for organizations as well as up to six months imprisonment. Routine maintenance of equipment and roads within closed areas would be prohibited. There could be limited authorizations to allow emergency repairs.”

The release from Tonto Forest on the closures noted:

“The Tonto National Forest wants concerned citizens to know that forest closures are not taken lightly, as they affect many people, businesses, partner agencies, important restoration and other work on the forest, and the public. When forest closures are in effect, everyone is prohibited from entering the forest including Forest Service personnel, unless they are responding to a wildfire or other emergency or patrolling to ensure enforcement of the closure.”

Don Nunley, fire staff officer for the Tonto National Forest, said, “These area closures are to provide for public and firefighter safety during the extreme fire danger currently being experienced in central Arizona. We continue to remind the public that fireworks and other incendiary devices are always prohibited on public lands, and that target shooting remains prohibited under Stage II fire restrictions still in effect for the remainder of the forest.”

Contributing to this story were

Peter Aleshire, Alexis Bechman

and Trudy Balcom

contact the reporter at:
"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." Chief Seattle
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