With the Horseshoe Fire now burning three miles north of Christopher Creek, Tonto National Forest officials plan to announce forest restrictions, most likely effective next Thursday.
The restrictions, which will probably ban campfires, smoking, shooting firearms and operating chain saws and other motorized equipment, will be the earliest in the forest's history. A dry winter in the midst of a decade-long drought left forest officials little choice.
"We've been discussing (restrictions) for a while, so we had the ball rolling," said Payson Ranger District Head Ranger Ed Armenta. "(They will include) the Pine-Strawberry area, across the Rim above the Control Road, down to the Bear Flat area and across to tie into the Pleasant Valley Ranger District."
Armenta said a complete forest closure could be coming soon.
"We're going to continue to monitor the conditions and ratchet up restrictions as needed," he said. "Potential closures are imminent, but that's a last resort."
The Horseshoe Fire, which was reported Wednesday morning, has grown to seven acres, but is now contained according to fire officials.
The fire, caused by a campfire, is west of Promontory Butte near Horton Creek. Resources are still on hand from the February Fire, including three helicopters supporting 35 Tonto National Forest personnel, according to Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts.
"They have really good air support on it," Roberts said, "and unless they get some unforeseen, extreme, really squirrely weather, they expect to have it wrapped up ...."
The February Fire is now 100 percent contained. The blaze consumed 4,234 acres before the Arizona Central West Zone Incident Management Team subdued it.
"The team did an outstanding job," Armenta said. "This is early in the year. They haven't even had their team meeting to get their act together.
"They just came, took over the fire, hit the ground running, and did it in an efficient, professional manner."
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued a health watch for Tuesday, the last day of intense smoke from the February Fire.
Health watches are issued when pollution levels reach a point where people with respiratory or other health problems need to limit their outdoor activity.