Drought conditions, hot temperatures, and increased fire danger have resulted in fire restrictions for the Tonto National Forest beginning at 8 a.m., Wednesday, May 22.
Most types of fire or fire-causing activities are prohibited across the entire Tonto National Forest.
Most of Arizona is sweltering under severe to extreme drought conditions, with the exception of an area of “moderate” drought centered on Gila County. Even so, Tonto Creek and the Salt River are flowing at about half of normal and the Verde River at about two-thirds of normal.
The Tonto Forest restrictions will ban building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or charcoal-burning device, probably until the monsoon starts.
Restrictions also apply to smoking outside of a cleared area, operating internal combustion power tools, using welding equipment or torches with open flames, operating combustion engines without spark-arresting devices in effective working order, or discharging firearms except in taking game in accordance with Arizona hunting laws.
Use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, and heating devices is allowed, and some developed campgrounds are also exempt from these restrictions.
“We are going into restrictions due to rapidly decreasing fuel moisture and low humidity levels, as well as hot, dry, windy conditions going into the Memorial Day weekend,” said Tonto National Forest Fire Management Officer Clay Templin. “Most areas of the Tonto National Forest remain available for recreation activity, including all the Salt River system lakes.”
“We continue to remind the public that all fireworks are prohibited on the forest at all times — and this includes the use of exploding targets,” emphasized Templin. “We are highly concerned on the forest due to the increase of fires caused by recreational shooting in these continuing drought conditions. We have already had eight fire starts this year from this activity. We would like to prevent a repeat of the Sunflower Fire that was caused by target shooting and burned 17,618 acres and cost $5.7 million in firefighting efforts.”
Violation of these fire restrictions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to six months.
For more information regarding forest recreation and fire restrictions, please contact the Tonto National Forest at (602) 225-5200, or check online at www.fs.usda.gov/tonto.
For general information on fire activity and restrictions in Arizona, call toll free 877-864-6985, or visit the Southwest Coordination Center website: http://gacc.nifc.gov/swcc or http://www.publiclands.org/firenews/AZ.php.
Restrictions: Toll free 1 (877) 864-6985