Prescott Forest closure, area rain among latest fire developments
VERDE VALLEY — The closure of the Prescott National Forest and some rain falling in Northern Arizona have been the main wildfire developments affecting the Verde Valley early this week.
Wednesday morning’s announcement by Prescott forest officials about the complete closure comes just after the Coconino and Kaibab forests made the same decision. Coconino and Kaibab forests are closed to the public as of 8 a.m. Wednesday; Prescott’s forest closure goes into effect Friday, June 25, 8 a.m.
A full forest closure means that the public is prohibited from entering any part of the Prescott National Forest at any time. Those with private inholdings will be allowed access to their property, as well as personnel providing critical utility support and firefighters performing official duties.
Campers and visitors should vacate their campsites before the closure begins, and the public should cancel any plans for visiting the Prescott National Forest for the next several weeks. Though parts of the national forest might receive rain from sporadic storms over the next couple of weeks, this closure will not be rescinded until sufficient precipitation is received.
Forestry staff work on thinning and other forest and watershed restoration projects will cease.
The violation of closures and fire restrictions 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.
Meanwhile, rain in the area will hopefully bring relief to the wildfires burning around the Verde Valley. At 11 a.m. Wednesday, a steady rain was falling across Camp Verde, Lake Montezuma and points to the east, where the Backbone Fire has been raging, and the temperature had dropped from weekend highs in the 110s to the high 70s.
The Tonto National Forest will implement a Stage 3 forest closure beginning Friday, meaning some lakes, roads and recreation areas will remain accessible.
Tuesday afternoon, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office placed Verde Lakes and Beasley Flats in “ready” status. While there is currently no immediate threat to these areas or the incorporated town of Camp Verde, this is the closest community to the Town of Camp Verde to receive any “ready, set, go” directions since this fire started June 16.
As of Wednesday morning, the fire was only 1% contained. It has burned about 38,000 acres, including 6,000 acres Tuesday, and now has almost 600 people assigned to it.
The towns of Strawberry and Pine remain evacuated. State Route 260 remains closed from Blue Heron Lane all the way to where it joins State Route 87 in Payson.
The fire most visible from West Sedona and the central and western Verde Valley has charred more than 24,000 acres, although its growth slowed considerably Monday and Tuesday.
Started by lightning about four miles east of Perkinsville, the fire has spread to the northeast along a series of ridges and peaks elevated above the Verde Valley. There are 121 firefighters assigned to the lightning-caused blaze, but still 0% containment.
The Sycamore Canyon area was evacuated Sunday. Monday, Kachina Village and several neighborhoods in its vicinity were placed on “set” status, where they remain.
Rock Butte Fires
Burning on the west side of State Route 89, near Paulden, this series of five fires is in a very rugged area, covering 82 acres. The lightning-caused blaze is 19% contained with 120 firefighters working on it.
Follow Inciweb.nwcg.org or each national forest’s website, Facebook or Twitter accounts for the latest information.