Public land closures in place to prevent wildfires across Arizona

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Extreme fire danger across the state has prompted various agencies to close off sections of public land. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Extreme fire danger across the state has prompted various agencies to close off sections of public land. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
This map shows closures in 4 different national forests in the state. This map shows closures in 4 different national forests in the state.
“It continues to get drier and it continues to get hotter. So conditions aren’t gonna get any better until we have the monsoons," said Carrie Templin, public affairs officer for Tonto National Forest. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) “It continues to get drier and it continues to get hotter. So conditions aren’t gonna get any better until we have the monsoons," said Carrie Templin, public affairs officer for Tonto National Forest. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

Extreme fire danger across the state has prompted various agencies to close off sections of public land. Closures at popular places in the Tonto National Forest like Water Wheel, Christopher Creek Campground,and Flowing Springs, for example, already thwarted many people's plans for Memorial Day.

“It continues to get drier and it continues to get hotter. So conditions aren’t gonna get any better until we have the monsoons," said Carrie Templin, public affairs officer for Tonto National Forest.

[RELATED: Prescott forest closes some areas because of fire conditions]

The BLM, the U.S Forest Service and the state of Arizona hope that closing the lands will prevent human activity that causes the vast majority of wildfires. There have been about 700 wildfires in the state so far this year; only 8 of them were lightning-caused. All of those wildfires have scorched 70,000 acres.

“That probably isn’t a very large number. The fact that we’ve already lost 35 homes in Arizona – that’s significant. And that’s what we’re trying to prevent,” Templin said.

[RELATED: Forest officials implement rare area closures to prevent wildfires]

Starting Friday morning, areas on the west and south of Prescott National Forest will close to the public -- the first partial closure there since 2003. That will be the fifth National Forest with closures in the state caused by fire danger.

“Right now, we’re seeing it in Coconino. We’re seeing it in Flagstaff, in Winslow – all of those northern Arizona cities is where we’re seeing a lot of the activity," said Tiffany Davila with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

Based on the numbers, it looks like closing forest areas works. In 2012 – the last time Tonto had significant closures – there were 100 fewer fires on U.S. Forest land than in 2017, a year where there were no forest closures. 2017 also saw about 160,000 more acres burned than in 2012.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Wildfires]

A lot has to happen before forests can reopen.

“It will take a lot of good rain," Templin said. "Monsoon season can do one of two things. It will either come in and we’ll have a lot of dry lightning and then we’ll have a lot of fire activity. Or if we’re really lucky – and we’re keeping our fingers crossed, it’ll come in with a lot of rain.” 

Based on typical rain patterns, it may not be until about the Fourth of July before those rains come. If you get caught on closed public land, you will face a fine.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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