TONTO NATIONAL FOREST, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Officials have announced that parts of Tonto National Forest will be closed just before the Fourth of July weekend, due to the threat of wildfires. However, some lakes and forest roads will remain open and accessible.

Bush Fire

Bush Fire in the Tonto National Forest

Wildfires have already burned more than 224,500 acres this year in the Tonto National Forest. Now, following a wet winter and recent dry and windy conditions, fire danger is extremely high. Those conditions have led officials to close parts the state’s largest national forest beginning at 6 a.m. on Thursday, July 2.

“We are currently seeing record-setting fire danger conditions, and new fire starts have become increasingly difficult to control," said Taiga Rohrer with the Tonto National Forest Fire Management Office. "This closure represents the best option at this time to deal with these conditions, and both reduce risk to the public and protect their forest lands for the future.”

Rohrer also says that it's important that people traveling along highways through these areas make sure that their vehicles and trailers are in good condition and that tow chains are properly secured to avoid causing roadside fires.

The Stage 3 Forest Closure means that all National Forest System lands contained within the Tonto are closed to the public, with the exception of the following:

  • Roosevelt Lake 
  • Bartlett Reservoir
  • Canyon Lake
  • Saguaro Lake and the Lower Salt River
  • Tortilla Flat restaurant
  • Roosevelt Lakeview Mobile Home Park

The following roads will also remain OPEN:

  • Bush Highway (FR 204)
  • FR 19 to Bartlett Reservoir Jojoba Boat Launch and Bartlett Marina
  • FR 459A to Rattlesnake Day Use Area
  • FR 459 to Yellow Cliffs Boat Launch and SB Cove Day Use Area
  • FR 582 from SR 87 to the Buckhead Mesa Landfill
  • FR 583 from SR 87 to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

According to Neil Bosworth, Forest Supervisor, these decisions to close certain areas are rooted in public and firefighter safety during the extreme fire danger currently being experienced throughout Arizona. “We understand that closing the Tonto impacts businesses, partner agencies and the public as well as our restoration and other work on the forest,” Bosworth said. “Everyone is prohibited from entering the forest, unless specifically permitted for emergency activities."

“Steps to minimize the risk of fires and the danger to people are more important than recreation at the moment,” Bosworth added. Violations of these restrictions are punishable as a Class B misdemeanor, which means a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment of up to six months, or both. Fines and punishments are determined by a federal court judge.

Click here to see the detailed closure order.

Numerous fires on the Tonto National Forest, including the Bush Fire, have been caused by vehicle fires, sparks from tow chains, or flat tires already this season.

For more information about the One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire campaign, click here

 

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