Tonto Faces Most Severe Restrictions In History


Payson Ranger District officials are doing all they can to keep people out of the Tonto National Forest over the busy Memorial Day weekend.

Access roads will be either taped off or barricades will be erected, Brenda Straw, customer service representative for the district, said.

Where access by local residents is permitted, the district will try to have personnel posted to issue permits and verify identification.

"There's also a big signboard on the Beeline down by Rye that says 'Tonto National Forest Closed/No Entry To Forest,'" Straw said. "There are other signboards around town as well."

The forest was almost entirely closed Wednesday at 8 a.m. a measure forest officials are calling "the most severe fire restrictions in the forest's history."

"That includes the entire Payson Ranger District," Ed Armenta, district ranger, said. "People who live within the forest can go to their private property, but they are not allowed to venture onto national forest lands. It pertains to them as well."

The only exceptions to the closure are the "Chain of Lakes," the area west of the Verde River, the Goldfield Mountain area south of Saguaro Lake, and the Rolls area north of Saguaro Lake. The Chain of Lakes refers to Roosevelt, Apache, Saguaro, Canyon, Bartlett and Horseshoe lakes and includes the Lower Verde and Lower Salt rivers.

Arizona state highways within the forest remain open, as do fee campgrounds along Highway 260 east of Payson. However, no fires are allowed in these campgrounds, which include Ponderosa, Upper Tonto Creek, Christopher Creek, Sharp Creek, and Houston Mesa off Highway 87.

For further information on Tonto National Forest closures and restrictions, call (602) 225-5200

Coconino closure

Meanwhile, Coconino National Forest officials have instituted a partial closure of that forest for just the third time in nearly 30 years. About 66 percent of the forest is affected.

Most of the areas being closed have Ponderosa pine. The only developed campgrounds closed are the Kehl Springs and Knoll Lake campgrounds at the south end of the forest and Little Elden Horse Camp and Lockett Meadow campgrounds on the north end.

For more information on the Coconino National Forest closures and restrictions, call 1-877-864-6985.

Apache-Sitgreaves closure

The latest national forest to announce closures is Apache-Sitgreaves, with about 20 percent of that forest now closed. The area south of Highway 260 to the Mogollon Rim is closed from near the Woods Canyon Lake turnoff to Show Low, including Black Canyon Lake, Black Canyon, and Gentry campgrounds. Both Woods Canyon and Willow Springs lakes and their associated campgrounds will remain open. Chevelon and Bear Canyon lakes are closed.

For more information on Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest closures and restrictions, call 1-877-864-6985.

Wildland fire update

Tram Fire

The 190-acre Tram Fire is still burning on the southern edge of the Rim about six miles west of Clints Well. A total of 377 firefighters and support personnel, 16 engines and water tenders and three helicopters are at the scene of the blaze which is now estimated to be 65 percent contained.

"In spite of rugged terrain and high winds, crews have made remarkably good progress on the fire," said Gene Waldrip, incident commander, in a press release issued by the Coconino National Forest.

Weimer Fire

The 320-acre Weimer Fire, which started Tuesday in Chevelon Canyon, may be contained this evening. Yet another human-caused fire, this one was detected at 10 a.m. The fire is burning in very steep terrain and high winds are making direct attack difficult. Six 20-person crews, three dozers and eight engines are on the scene.

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