Fire Season Begins, Restrictions Enforced

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Yet another fire is raging between Horseshoe and Bartlett Lakes in the Tonto National Forest.

Just as the St. Clair Fire was contained at 1,920 acres late Sunday afternoon the Bart Fire broke out, rapidly growing to over 11,500 acres by Monday night. The Bart Fire is burning 10 miles east of north Scottsdale/Carefree near Bartlett Lake.

The fire broke out about 5 p.m. Sunday on the north side of Bartlett Lake Road at about milepost 8. It burned to the edge of the St. Clair Fire to the north by about 9 p.m.

Eight hotshot crews and a total of 340 firefighters were battling the blaze Monday evening, hoping to keep it north of Bartlett and south of Horseshoe Dam Roads. A Type II Incident Management Team under the leadership of John Philbin took command of firefighting operations Monday evening.

Hotshot crews made good progress Monday burning out along Horseshoe Lake Road on the fire's west flank and Bartlett Lake Road on its south flank. Their priority now is burning out the eastern flank.

But fire officials are concerned that southwesterly winds and low humidity could combine to blow the fire across the Verde River and as far as Highway 87. The fire is 20 percent contained.

Horseshoe Dam and Bartlett Lake roads are closed. Bartlett and Horseshoe recreation areas are threatened and have been evacuated.

Some firefighting operations are based at Payson Municipal Airport, including air coordination under the leadership of Bob Ortlund, fire management officer for the Payson Ranger District.

"We use the aircraft to do a reconnaissance of the fire," Ortlund said as he boarded an aircraft Monday afternoon. "We go up to coordinate the air traffic above the fire."

The cause of the fire is under investigation by U.S. Forest Service law enforcement personnel.

St. Clair Fire

photo

Bob Ortlund, fire management officer for the Payson Ranger District, climbs aboard a Beachcraft Baron Air Attack aircraft at the Payson Airport. The plane acts as a flying air traffic control center for helicopters and tankers attacking the Bart and St. Clair Fires burning southwest of Payson.

The St. Clair Fire scorched 1,920 acres of the Tonto National Forest before it was contained Sunday.

Started by a burning vehicle on Horseshoe Road between Horseshoe and Bartlett lakes, it was reported at 3 a.m. Friday morning. It took several hotshot fondness attending football games.he loved hotshot crews, two single engine air tankers, and three heavy air tankers to subdue the blaze by Friday afternoon, according to Gary Roberts, Payson Ranger District fire prevention officer.

Forest officials were surprised by the fire's rapid progress.

"It spread really quickly, which is indicative of how dry it is," Tonto National Forest Deputy Public Affairs Officer Vinnie Picard said late Friday. Tonto restrictions extended

New forest restrictions

The Tonto National Forest extended the boundaries of its fire restricted areas on Thursday, May 12.

The boundaries have been extended north of Roosevelt Lake approximately 15 miles and now encompass the Salome Wilderness Area, Picture Mountain and national forest lands around the town of Gisela.

Affected campgrounds include Rose Creek, Reynolds Creek and Sawmill on the west side of Arizona Highway 288. Campfires in designated fire rings at these three campgrounds are exempt from the restrictions. Charcoal and wood fires are strictly prohibited at all other campgrounds within the restricted area.

"As temperatures rise and vegetation dries out, we will continue to extend the restricted areas, so we hope people check with us often to see if their favorite spots are affected," Tom Klabunde, acting forest supervisor said.

Areas around all six of the Tonto National Forest's lakes -- Roosevelt, Apache, Canyon, Saguaro, Horseshoe and Bartlett -- are restricted.

Campfire and charcoal burning devices are prohibited, except in the Rose Creek, Reynolds Creek and Sawmill campgrounds. Restrictions also apply to smoking outside of a cleared area, operating internal combustion power tools, using welding equipment or any torches with open flames, operating any combustion engines without spark arresting devices, or discharging firearms.

For more information regarding recreation sites and fire restrictions, contact the Tonto National Forest at (602) 225-5200, or check online at www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto.

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