Officials on the Tonto National Forest say they’ll close the forest beginning Thursday because of ongoing extreme fire danger.
Nearly 225,000 acres of the Tonto have burned this year following hot temperatures and a wet winter that produce an excess of dry grass and brush.
“We are currently seeing record setting fire danger conditions and new fire starts have become increasingly difficult to control,” says Tonto National Forest Fire Management Officer Taiga Rohrer. “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. Additionally, it is extremely important that people travelling along highways through these areas ensure that their vehicles and trailers are in good condition and tow chains are properly secured to avoid causing roadside fires.”
Officials say the closure is necessary to protect public and private property and forest lands from human-caused wildfire. Roosevelt Lake and Barlett Reservoir will, however, remain open along with some other recreation sites. The Tonto is the state’s largest national forest.
The Arizona Department of Transportation has also limited travel on northbound State Route 87 south of Payson to one lane as crews make repairs of damage caused by the Bush Fire.