Forest Closure Extended

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More of the Rim country's forests were closed yesterday, but campground exemptions were maintained.

"People who live on or near the Payson Ranger District know as well as anybody how much drier it's getting as we go further into the summer without any rain," Tonto National Forest Public Information Officer Vincent Picard said.

"We hope people are hyper-vigilant out there, police themselves, police their neighbors, and work with us in following the rules. We need everybody to be on our team."

The new closure area is south of Highway 260, from its intersection with Forest Road 64 near Thompson Draw to the eastern border of the Tonto National Forest at the Mogollon Rim. The southern edge of the closure follows Forest Road 512 to Forest Road 411, then Haigler Creek, then Forest Road 200, then Forest Trail 178, then Forest Road 405 until it intersects with Highway 260.

Significant terrain features within the closure area include Christopher Mountain, Snowshoe Ridge, Turkey Peak and Colcord Mountain.

People who reside within the closure area and their invited guests are permitted to go to and from their homes, but may not enter closed forest areas.

"Some residents think they can just walk in or go horseback riding or whatever, and that's not what that means," Picard said. "They're allowed to enter their property and exit their property and that's it. The same rules that apply to people in downtown Payson apply to people who live in the closure areas."

Exempted campgrounds within the closure areas include Ponderosa, Upper Tonto Creek, Christopher Creek and Sharp Creek.

The forest closure in northern portions of the Rim country continues. That closure area begins at the Irving Power Plant and runs along the Mogollon Rim until it meets Highway 260. The border then follows Highway 260 southwest to its intersection with Forest Road 64, then continues along Highway 87, then Forest Road 583 north of the Tonto Natural Bridge (which remains open) until it ends at the power plant. The Pinal Mountains near Globe also remain closed.

Meanwhile, the Coconino National Forest implemented more fire restrictions on Wednesday. Forest users are no longer allowed to use chain saws between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., and cannot drive off forest roads except to park in designated parking areas, trailheads or forest roads.

Fire restrictions cover the entire Tonto National Forest. Campfires, smoking, recreational shooting and other spark-producing activities are prohibited in the entire forest except in designated areas. Penalties for violating restrictions or closures include fines of up to $5,000 and six months in jail.

For more information, visit the Tonto National Forest website at www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire or call (602) 225-5200. Southwestern area fire information can be found at www. fs.fed.us/r3/fire or call (877) 864-6985.

Three Forks Fire

The Three Forks Fire, burning four miles east of Big Lake and 18 miles south of Springerville, had grown to 7,288 acres by this morning (Friday).

Two U.S. Air Force C-130 airplanes have been dispatched to the scene to assist ground firefighters. The fire is 15 percent contained.

Gary Roberts, Payson Ranger District fire prevention officer, drove through the area yesterday on his way back from assisting on the Peppin Fire in New Mexico.

"The winds were unbelievable out there yesterday when I stopped to get gas," Roberts said. "No wonder it blew that thing, but winds are supposed to calm down the rest of the week. Wind is always the biggest problem."

More than 300 firefighters were working the human-caused blaze in the popular recreation area. The fire was first reported about noon Tuesday.

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