Fire restrictions were imposed along the Mogollon Rim Thursday encompassing three national forests.
Drought conditions and increased fire danger led to the restrictions on the Tonto, Coconino and Apache-Sitgreaves forests. The restrictions place limitations on campfires, charcoal fires and smoking.
The Tonto National Forest also restricts chain saw use, welding, operating machinery without spark arresters and discharge of firearms, except while engaged in legal hunting activities. Use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, and heating devices are still allowed in the restricted areas, and some developed campgrounds are exempted from these restrictions.
Fire restrictions on the Tonto National Forest cover all land north of the Control Road (Forest Road 64) between the Irving Power Plant and the Young Road. For additional information regarding recreation sites and fire restrictions, including maps and additional camping information, contact the appropriate forest:
For general information on fire activity and restrictions in Arizona visit the Southwest Region Web site at http://gacc.nifc.gov/swcc. or call 1-877-864-6985.
The restrictions imposed by the three forests are the earliest in the state's history, but a dry winter in the midst of a decade-long drought left forest officials little choice.
"We've been discussing them for a while, so we had the ball rolling," Payson Ranger District Head Ranger Ed Armenta said.
He also indicated 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."
Two early fires, the February Fire and the Horseshoe Fire, were both caused by abandoned campfires. While the Horseshoe was contained at eight acres, the February consumed 4,234 acres north of Payson before the Arizona Central West Zone Incident Management Team subdued it.