Until Sept. 30, the Tonto National Forest has gone into Stage 2 Fire Restrictions which ban all fires (wood and charcoal), target shooting, smoking or using anything that creates an open flame.
The Town of Payson has followed suit as of 8 a.m., June 11.
Already this year the Tonto has major fires burning.
“The current Telegraph and Mescal fires near Superior and Globe are painful reminders of how wildfires can spread very quickly, endangering the public as well as presenting substantial obstacles to firefighters in the implementation of wildfire suppression strategies,” said Taiga Rohrer, fire management officer for the Tonto National Forest.
Both those fires have scorched more than 150,000 acres in a week and caused evacuations.
Humans caused both fires.
“Given current drought condition and extreme fire danger, it simply is too dangerous for people visiting the forest to shoot at targets, start a campfire, park on grass or even allow trailers to drag chains,” said Rohrer.
It’s these activities that cause the majority of forest fires, said Rohrer.
In fact, during the last three years, target shooting alone caused 75 fires on the Tonto.
The Telegraph and Mescal fires started in early June. Then on June 10, a car fire started a brush fire near Heber.
The Forest Service has stiff fines for violating Stage 2 fire restrictions. Punishment can be up to a $5,000 fine and imprisonment for six months.
There are some activities still allowed during Stage 2 fire restrictions, however.
Gas-powered chain saws and mowers may be used after 8 p.m. and before 9 a.m.
Petroleum-fueled or electric cooking, lighting or heating devices that have an Underwriters Laboratory certification and a positive shut-off valve with a minimum 10 feet clearance from grass or other combustible materials may be used.
The July 4th holiday is only a few weeks away and Forest Service officials remind everyone fireworks and the use of exploding targets are prohibited at all times.
For more information regarding the fire restrictions closure order, shooting restrictions and an accompanying map, see the “Alerts & Warnings” section on the Tonto home page at https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/tonto/alerts-notices.
The public can obtain current state and federal fire restrictions information across Arizona on the Arizona Interagency Wildfire Prevention and Information website.
Visit Inciweb (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/) for information on current fires burning in Arizona.