Campfire and smoking restrictions were implemented this week in four national forests.
In addition to the Tonto National Forest, other Arizona forests with restrictions in place include the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coronado and Prescott national forests.
"All the fire danger indicators are suggesting that we are at the start of our fire season and vegetation in national forest lands (is) drying out very rapidly," Apache-Sitgreaves Fire Management Officer Tom Beddow said.
While restrictions are forest-wide in the Apache-Sitgreaves and Coronado National Forests, they only include a portion of the Tonto National Forest. The specific area where restrictions apply is north of the Control Road (Forest Road 64) east to Highway 260 to the top of the Mogollon Rim.
Although the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park remains open, similar restrictions have been imposed in the Pinal Mountains south of Globe. Prescott National Forest restrictions apply to the Bradshaw Ranger District, including the Prescott Basin adjacent to the City of Prescott and in the Bradshaw Mountains south of Prescott.
In announcing the Tonto restrictions, forest officials cited a combination of continuing drought and thousands of acres of dead trees from bark beetle infestation. The Tonto restrictions were implemented despite the fact that the forest is not as dry as it was a year ago.
"We're in a better situation regarding the weather than we were last year, but we've got all those dead trees -- the bark beetle mortality -- that's creating some concern," Ed Armenta, head ranger for the Payson Ranger District, said. "Last year, we were already getting into closures at this time. We've just got a different set of circumstances this year, and it's going to get hotter and drier. We thought it was appropriate to go into restrictions (at this time), particularly around Pine and Strawberry."
Armenta said there have already been 10 wildfires so far this season in the Payson Ranger District, including two last weekend.
Under the restrictions, campfires, charcoal grills and stove fires are prohibited on national forest lands without a permit, except in Forest Service-developed camp and picnic grounds where grills are provided. Pressurized liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters meeting safety specifications are allowed.
Smoking is only allowed within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter and free of all flammable material. Fireworks are prohibited on all national forest lands.
For other local fire restrictions and fire information in general for any southwestern forest, go to www.fs.fed.us/ r3/fire or call toll free 1-877-864-6985.
Town of Payson restrictions
The Town of Payson also instituted open burning restrictions this week similar to those being imposed by the Tonto National Forest.
The restrictions do not affect the use of personal charcoal and gas grills. For barbecues at the parks, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 474-5242, ext. 7.
All existing town burn permits are suspended immediately, and fireworks are prohibited within the town without approved permits.
For further information, call the Payson Fire Department at 474-5242, ext. 3. Rim country residents outside the Town of Payson should contact their local fire departments for applicable restrictions.
The Round Fire, burning north of Sedona, has caused closures of several trails in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness Area and of several roads leading to the wilderness area.
The fire, which started in Secret Canyon six miles north of west Sedona on May 19, has so far consumed 70-80 acres and is suspected to be human-caused. At this time there is no estimated date of containment.
Kaibab and Coconino restrictions
Because of favorable conditions in the Kaibab and Coconino national forests, officials do not expect to implement campfire and smoking restrictions before the Memorial Day weekend. Conditions in the two forests are much better than last year because of winter precipitation and cooler temperatures.
"We're pleased that last year isn't repeating itself," Forest Supervisor Mike Williams said. "However, it's important to remember to keep an eye on your campfire and make sure it's cold to the touch before leaving. Forest visitors are always urged to be careful with campfires."
Cibola and Santa Fe national forests restrictions
Large portions of the Cibola and Santa Fe national forests in New Mexico have implemented campfire and smoking restrictions. For more information, go to www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire or call toll free 1-877-864-6985.