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3 more national forests in Arizona impose fire, smoking restrictions

(Facebook photo/Tonto National Forest)

PHOENIX (AP) — Three more national forests in Arizona have imposed campfire and smoking restrictions aimed at preventing human-caused wildfires like a large blaze now being fought by hundreds of firefighters supported by aircraft.

The Coconino, Kaibab and Tonto national forests on Wednesday issued coordinated statements announcing that those forests were joining the Apache-Sitgreaves and Prescott forests in imposing restrictions, with the latest ones taking effect Friday.

The restrictions generally bar campfires outside Forest Service-provided grills and smoking outside structures, vehicles or areas cleared of flammable material.

The Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona hasn’t issued similar restrictions so far this year.

Extreme or exceptional drought conditions blanket most of the state.

Criteria used to determine when to implement restrictions include current and predicted weather, fuel moisture, fire activity levels and available firefighting resources, Forest Service officials said.

The forests’ restrictions will remain in effect until forest officials determine that conditions have changed sufficiently, generally as a result of significant precipitation, to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfire, officials said.

With the drought conditions and high fire danger, “no rain forecasted in the near future and rising temperatures, we’re anticipating an active wildfire season,” said Taiga Rohrer, Tonto National Forest fire management officer. “These fire restrictions will protect human life, property and our natural resources.”

Two cities in Arizona’s high country, Prescott and Flagstaff, on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, announced similar fire restrictions, also effective Friday.

Flagstaff’s bans include smoking prohibitions in numerous parks, open-space areas and the city’s urban trail system.

Elsewhere, Mohave County earlier this week implemented prohibitions on outdoor fires and use of consumer fireworks in unincorporated county areas not owned by the federal government, the state or tribes.

In another development, additional crews and heavy equipment have been assigned to a still-growing wildfire that has burned 8.6 square miles (22.3 square kilometers) of brush and grass on and near the Prescott forest in north-central Arizona.

With 400 people now assigned to the fire, crews supported by helicopters dropping water and retardant had removed vegetation and created containment lines around 15% of the fire’s perimeter as of Wednesday, fire managers reported in a statement.

No damage to structures has been reported but evacuations of several small communities in the sparsely populated area around the fire were ordered Sunday and residents of the community of Crown King remained under a warning to be prepared to evacuate.

The human-caused fire was first reported 7 miles (11.3 kilometers) southwest of Crown King.

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