Springerville, AZ—May 23, 2018—For Immediate Release- Due to increasing drought conditions, very high fire danger and public safety concerns, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs) has implemented four area closures across the forest. Areas outside of the closures with remain in Stage II Fire Restrictions.
Of these areas, two are located in the Black Mesa Ranger District and one of these is shared with the Lakeside Ranger District, one in the Springerville Ranger District, and one in the Alpine Ranger District.
Black Mesa Ranger District
- Promontory Butte closure area
Black Mesa and Lakeside Ranger Districts
- South of Arizona State Highway 260 closure area
Springerville Ranger District
- Pole Knoll closure area
Alpine Ranger District
- Southwest of Nutrioso and Alpine closure area
For more information on Forest closures, open areas, and available recreational opportunities in the White Mountain Region, the 311 Community Call Center will go live today at 1:00 pm and will be open from 7:00 am – 7:00 pm through Monday. Dial 311 to access the center.
The ASNFs reminds concerned citizens that forest closures are not taken lightly, as they affect many people, businesses, partner agencies, important restoration and other work on the forest, and the public. When forest closures are in effect, the public is prohibited from entering the closed areas. Exceptions may be made for Forest Service personnel, certain contractors, permit holders, and access to private inholdings may be granted in writing under administrative use as determined by the Forest Supervisor.
While the Forests hopes we never have to go into a full forest closure, it is always a possibility depending on conditions and if there is an increase in human caused fires. Public, law enforcement and fire prevention patrols have been increased on all districts along with more than doubling of the forests firefighting personnel. Information is being disseminated far and wide about forest conditions and the need to be extremely careful when using the forest. The public can help by spreading the word, reporting violators, and making sure their homes and communities are Fire-wise.
When it comes to implementing both fire restrictions and closures, community sentiment is always a major consideration for us. We balance the need for restrictions with the ability for the public to enjoy and retain economic benefits from the National Forest. We hear a range of opinions and comments from our local community members and our visitors and consider these very seriously in our decisions about what level of restrictions or closures to implement and when.
Forest and district leadership carefully decide which areas meet specific criteria for closure, which include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Fire danger: Areas where the moisture content level is extremely low, as indicated by the Energy Release Component.
- Vulnerability: Areas that are most vulnerable to fire suppression efforts due to inaccessibility, limited resources, and are difficult to evacuate people quickly and safely.
- Values at risk from wildfire: Values such as life, private property, communities, critical watersheds, trailheads, campgrounds, utility corridors, and critical infrastructure, etc.
- Topography: Areas with steep slopes and canyons that are difficult to access and effectively suppress wildfires, which often align with traditional wind directions.
- Cohesiveness with neighboring national forests: The ASNFs borders several other national forests, which have implemented closure areas that abut the boundary of the ASNFs. We try to be consistent in areas across boundaries to reduce confusion.
Closures and fire restrictions will be lifted when sufficient precipitation is received to adequately reduce the risk of wildfire, and hot, dry weather conditions are not forecast to continue.
Forest Law Enforcement Officers experience an increase in violations during busy holiday weekends and during the hunting season. To avoid a citation and/or impounding of your personal property do not leave property unattended in the forest.
Violating closures and fire restrictions is a violation that carries a mandatory appearance in federal court, punishable as a Class B misdemeanor with a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or up to six months in prison, or both.
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