Forest officials implement rare area closures to prevent wildfires

Tonto and Coconino Nat. forests have closed sections due to fire danger.

Officials with the Tonto and Coconino national forests have announced pending area closures in an effort to prevent dangerous wildfires.

Starting Wednesday, various sites will be closed to the public and Forest Service personnel.

A spokesperson for the Tonto National Forest says the last time an area closure was implemented was in 2012.

The Coconino National Forest has used closures a few times. A spokesperson says officials closed Fossil Creek in 2014. The longest full forest closure was in 2002 and the last full forest closure was in 2006.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Wildfires]

The closures come ahead of the holiday weekend. Forest officials are asking visitors to make alternative plans. They are also reminding the public that most forest lands remain under stage two fire restrictions which means campfires, use of firearms and smoking outside of vehicles and buildings are not allowed.

[MAP: Closure areas for the Tonto, Kaibab, Coconino and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests]

Forest officials have increased law enforcement presence ahead of these closures. Anyone violating fire restrictions or closures faces up to $5,000 in fines and prison time.

Here is a list of closures going into effect Wednesday 6 a.m. in the Tonto National Forest. The area closures will be in these general areas and will include all Tonto National Forest lands within the boundaries: All Tonto National Forest land north of Payson to the Forest boundary (Mogollon Rim) between the White Mountain Apache Reservation on the eastern boundary, and the Coconino National Forest on the western boundary. The southern boundary of the closure will start at the Fossil Creek Trailhead and head southeasterly along the powerline corridor to Arizona State Highway 87 into Payson and then follow Arizona State Highway 260 east from Payson, along National Forest System Road (NFSR) 405 and NFSR 405A to the National Forest System Trail 178 east along Haigler Creek to the White Mountain Apache Reservation. All National Forest System lands, roads and trails within the Mt. Ord, Four Peaks and Three Bar Wildlife areas. National Forest System Road 583 from State Highway 87 will remain open for access to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. Here is a list of closures going into effect Wednesday 8 a.m. in Coconino National Forest:

Flagstaff Ranger District San Francisco Peaks/Mt. Elden area Kelly Canyon area Fay Canyon/Fisher Point area Mormon Mountain areaMogollon Rim Ranger District Mogollon Rim area south of state Route 87 Red Rock Ranger District Fossil Creek area[MAP: Closure areas for the Tonto, Kaibab, Coconino and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests]

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