Hot diggity: The monsoons done got here just in time for the Fourth of July.
And now that the season of frequent afternoon rainstorms is upon us, Tonto, Coconino and Apache Sitgreaves National Forests have lifted all fire restrictions in Rim Country forests as an extra gift for one of the biggest tourist weekends of the year.
The National Weather Service says the shift in the high altitude winds could steer a succession of storms brewed in Mexico right on into Rim Country for the next couple of days.
The forecast calls for a 30-percent chance of afternoon and evening thundershowers through the Fourth, with a diminishing chance of rain on Saturday and Sunday.
The onset of the high humidity and the frequent rains prompted Tonto National Forest to lift tough fire restrictions on a domain that sprawls from the lakes on the outskirts of Phoenix to the lip of the Mogollon Rim.
Now, people can build fires both in established campgrounds and in informal campsites. All campers who build fires must still have on hand a shovel and a bucket of water, and cannot leave any campfire untended.
The Apache Sitgreaves forest atop the Rim to the east of the Highway never did impose fire restrictions this year. During recent severe drought years, the forests sometimes barred any camping or travel off road to protect tinder-dry forests.
The Coconino forest, which sprawls from Highway 260 atop the Rim all the way to Flagstaff, has also lifted most restrictions. The sole exception remains the still-dry, lower elevation areas around Sedona and the Verde Valley. In those areas, visitors can light fires only in fire rings in established campgrounds.
Despite the lifting of restrictions, Forest Service Rangers urged campers to take special care with campfires and cigarettes while visiting the forest. Campers must douse, stir and re-wet coals until they’re cool to the touch before leaving any campsite.
“Campfires should be put out by drowning with water and stirring with a shovel to ensure the fire is cold,” said Tonto National Forest Fire Staff Officer Clay Templin.
Fortunately, a few stray storms got the forest through the fire-prone months of May and June without any major problems.
Crews even let several fires sparked by lightning up on the Rim burn themselves out to thin overgrown stands of trees and add to the buffer zone around Pine and Strawberry.