Bright yellow barrier tape this morning blocked entrances to trails and backroads, including the Control Road, a clear signal that Tonto National Forest officials have closed the Mogollon Rim area and all forest lands five to seven miles beneath it.
In essence, the entire northern edge of the national forest from the Irving Power Plant east to the Young Road and the forest boundary at the Fort Apache Reservation is closed.
"It was something that needed to be done," said Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts.
All activities on those Forest Service lands are prohibited. Hiking, riding horses or mountain bikes, hunting, camping, fishing, building a campfire, operating a motorized vehicle or simply walking your dog are outlawed. The restrictions apply to residents as well as visitors.
Severity patrols will be on the outlook for any violators, Roberts said. Violating the closure is punishable by fines of $10,000, six months in jail, or both.
The closures went into effect at 8 a.m. this morning, Friday, and will remain until lifted, possibly after the monsoons arrive, Roberts said.
The western boundary of the closure extends north from Tonto Natural Bridge to the forest boundary at the top of the Mogollon Rim. Areas within the closure are Strawberry Mountain, the Narrows and Hardscrabble Road.
The boundary line extends north from Tonto Natural Bridge on the Beeline Highway to the Control Road. The boundary then travels along the Control Road through Tonto Village until it intersects with Highway 260. The closure line extends north along the Tonto/ Apache-Sitgreaves boundary line at the top of the Rim. For more information, call (602) 225-5200 or visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/home.shtml.