Forests are a tinderbox<br>Extreme fire danger forces closures in Coconino, Kaibab Forests

For only the second time in nearly 30 years, fire danger is forcing officials to shut down public access to parts of both the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests.

Although much of the two forests will stay open to the public, beginning June 8 at 8 a.m. about 60 percent of the forests will be closed to all activities such as camping biking, biking, walking, jogging and picnicking. Campfires of any kind will not be allowed in either National Forest. Much of the forest areas that have ponderosa pine are being closed to public access.

Officials report that in Coconino National Forest near Sedona, 100 feet along either side of Arizona 89A in Oak Creek Canyon, Beaver Creek, West Clear Creek west of the power line remain open. Campgrounds and picnic areas in Oak Creek Canyon will be open.

Prescott National Forest officials declared tighter restrictions that went into effect Friday morning.

The northern most tip of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is located in the Kaibab National Forest, while most of the Verde Valley is located in the Prescott National Forest. Coconino National Forest encompasses the areas in and around Sedona and Beaver Creek.

Deciding to close any part of a National Forest is not a decision that comes easily, Forest Service officials said. Much like the last time area closures were needed back in 1996, a number of factors have come together today to prompt forest officials to implement area closures.

Another dry winter and spring has created bone-dry conditions in both the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests, and in the Prescott National Forest. As summer approaches, Mother Nature is offering little help. We continue to have warm, dry and breezy weather, combined with a lack of rain and little prospect of significant rain in the near future. These conditions greatly increase the chances of both human-caused and lightning-sparked wildfires.

Similar conditions exist throughout much of the Southwest, which is stretching fire-fighting resources very thin. This raises concerns about having enough of those resources available to battle new fires. After considerable study and consideration, forest officials feel area closures are the best fire prevention tool available.

In the Prescott National Forest, restrictions further prohibit the use of fire, and restrict the use of internal combustion engines on the forest, but will not affect people’s access to the forest.

The use of campfires, charcoal grills, stove fires or any other type of fire that creates ashes is prohibited on any Prescott National Forest land, including developed recreation areas.

The order restricts the use of any internal combustion engine within the forest.

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