More forest areas in the Rim country have been closed by Tonto National Forest officials effective Wednesday, July 2.
The new area now closed to public access includes everything north of Control Road 64 from where it connects at Highway 87, east to where it comes out past Tonto Village at the Highway 260 intersection. The new closed area also includes everything north of Highway 260 from where it connects with Control Road 64 to the top of the Rim. The Colcord Ridge area is also closed.
The closed area is being expanded due to the late onset of the monsoon season complicated by lower-than-average winter precipitation, continuing drought and the thousands of acres of dead trees due to the pine bark beetle infestation.
"These conditions dramatically increase the potential for wildfires to spread," Tonto National Forest Supervisor Karl Siderits said.
The forest area around Pine and Strawberry also remains closed. That area is bordered by Control Road 64 and Tonto Natural Bridge Road to the south, the power lines running from the bridge road to the Irving Power Plant to the west, the Rim to the north, and Webber Creek to the east. The Pinal Mountains south of Globe are also closed.
State park still open
The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park remains open to visitors.
Campfire and smoking restrictions remain in effect on all remaining Forest Service lands managed by the Payson Ranger District that are not within the closed areas. The restrictions ban campfires, charcoal grills and stove fires, except in established Forest Service fee camp and picnic grounds where grills are provided. Liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters that meet safety specifications are allowed.
Smoking is allowed within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area with a three-foot radius and free of all flammable material down to the mineral soil.
"Of course fireworks are always prohibited at any time of the year on public land," Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts said.
For the second consecutive week, no wildfires were reported in the Payson Ranger District.
"That is terrific," Roberts said. "I just want to stress that people continue to be responsible in the woods and have a safe Fourth."
Roberts said he hopes that the monsoons are not too far away.
"Out towards Colcord there's actually a thunderhead building up today (Wednesday)," he said. "We're supposed to have a chance of rain along the Rim this weekend."
Additional closures are possible if the district does not receive precipitation soon.
"The entire forest goes on a conference call several times a week at this point of the year, and it's evaluated almost daily," Roberts said. "It's a pretty laborious process."
For detailed information concerning closures, contact the Payson Ranger District: (928) 474-7900.
The Globe Ranger District can be contacted for information about the Pinal Mountains closure at (928) 402-6200.
For other local fire restrictions and Southwest public lands fire information, use the Internet at www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire or call toll-free (877) 864-6985.