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Q: I heard there were several cases of food poisoning and all the people ate at the same restaurant. How come there was nothing about it in the paper?

A: According to an official with the Gila County Health Department, the cases were investigated, but they could not be specifically linked to food poisoning or to the restaurant in question.

People who believe they have food poisoning should contact the health department at 474-1210.

Q: What exactly are the criteria the Forest Service uses for closing and opening forests? Is it the moisture content of trees and shrubs, the moisture content of the ground, the amount of precipitation that falls within a particular time, or is it pressure from local businesses? In other words, do they use verifiable criteria?

A: Yes, according to Don Van Driel, group leader for protection and engineering for the Tonto National Forest.

"It's a combination of factors," Van Driel said. "We use what we call live fuel moisture the amount of moisture within living plants. We also use an energy release component or ERC curve that tells us how erratic fires will burn. We also monitor actual burning conditions on fires that have been occurring and their resistance to control.

"We also try to make sure we get at least an inch of wetting rain consistently over an area of the forest before we reopen that area. The spottiness of the rain is why we are sometimes only able to open parts of the forest."

The last factor that is worked into the equation is public pressure.

"We understand that when we close the forest it does affect a community's tourism and we want to be sensitive to that," Van Driel said. "But we don't want to respond to pressure (with a decision that might) endanger property or lives.

Call 474-5251, ext. 147, to reach Roundup's What's Up? line. Leave your question on the answering machine and we'll try to find the answer.

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