The Tonto National Forest is now under stage II fire restrictions, which means no campfires, target shooting or smoking outdoors.
The heightened restrictions started Tuesday morning in conjunction with other federal and state land management agencies in Arizona.
Rising temperatures and an increase in drying trends of grass fuel loads resulting from above average winter moisture prompted the decision to implement these fire restrictions, according to Tonto National Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth.
“Arizona’s wet winter has created a carpet of grasses which are now cured and dry due to the recent high temperatures,” Bosworth said. “With the escalating fire danger, we already have seen an increase in human-caused fires on the Tonto. Implementing these fire restrictions with other area land management agencies will help prevent human-caused wildfires, reducing risk to firefighters and the public.”
During stage II fire restrictions, the following must be observed:
• It is illegal to ignite, build, maintain, attend, or use a fire, campfire, or stove fire, including charcoal or briquettes. The use of stoves or grills that are solely fueled by liquid petroleum gas (LPG) is permitted.
• You can only operate an internal combustion power tool, such as a chain saw or other equipment, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
• You can only use a generator with an approved spark arresting device in an area that is barren or cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable materials within 3 feet.
• Welding, or operating any acetylene or other torch with an open flame is not permitted.
• No smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of any flammable material. Deposit butts and remains in an ashtray or inside a building; do not toss or discard on the ground.
Taiga Rohrer, Tonto National Forest fire management officer, emphasizes the need for the public to be very careful while visiting the forest.
“The cured grasses are especially susceptible to the slightest spark, so it’s important to avoid parking on or driving over dry grass,” Rohrer said. “Motorists also should check to ensure any trailer chains don’t drag and check the condition of trailer tires and wheel bearings before traveling.”
He noted that violation of these fire restrictions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to six months.
Besides stage II fire restrictions, target shooting restrictions also remain in effect on the Tonto through July 31. Under these restrictions, discharging a firearm, air, rifle, or gas gun, except for persons engaged in legal hunting activities, is prohibited on the Tonto.
Fireworks and the use of exploding targets always are prohibited year-round in national forests.
For more information regarding forest recreation sites and fire restrictions on the Tonto National Forest, contact the Tonto National Forest at 602-225-5200.