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Fire risk prompts closure of areas of Tonto National Forest

The extreme heat and fire danger around Arizona is causing fire officials to close down parts of the Tonto National Forest.

“These area closures are to provide for firefighter and public safety during the extreme fire danger currently being experienced in Central Arizona,” stated Helen Graham, Acting Fire Staff Officer for the forest in a press release. “These precautionary measures are intended to enhance our visitors’ quality recreation experiences. Most areas of the Tonto National Forest remain available for recreation activity, including all the Salt River system lakes.”

David Albo with the Tonto National Forest said anyone heading to Payson should avoid the Four Peaks area.

“A lot of people do some hiking up there, go for drives, four-wheeling, that kind of thing,” he said. “That area is going to be closed, but there are other options.”

Despite the closures, officials said there are still plenty of other places to spend a weekend up north.

“Quite a few areas are open on top of the rim,” said Albo. “On the Apache-Sitgreaves and Coconino Forests if people are looking to get a little higher elevation, escape the heat for the weekend.”

Officials sent out a press release that detailed the closures further. That portion of the release is below.

1. All National Forest System Lands, roads and trails described as follows: Beginning at Forest Road 708 at the Fossil Springs Trailhead thence proceeding southeasterly along the power line corridor following the Mazatzal Wilderness Boundary; thence easterly along the power line corridor to the junction of Forest Trail 540 (FT540); thence easterly and southeasterly along the power line corridor to the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park; thence easterly along Forest System Road 583 to State Highway 87; thence southerly following State Highway 87 to the Intersection with State Highway 260; thence easterly along State Highway 260 to the junction of the Colcord Road (Forest Road 291); thence easterly and southerly along FR 291 to Forest Road 512; thence northerly along FR 512 to the Forest boundary at the top of the Mogollon Rim; thence westerly along the Mogollon Rim and Tonto National Forest Boundary to the Fossil Springs Trailhead at Forest Road 708.

2. All National Forest System Lands, roads and trails within the Mt Ord, Four Peaks and Three Bar Wildlife Area, more specifically described as follows: bounded by Highway 87 on the west beginning at the intersection with Forest System Road 143; thence northerly along the eastern edge of State Highway 87 to the intersection with State Highway 188; thence southerly along the western edge of Highway 188 to the Salt River corridor; thence westerly along the north side of the Salt river corridor including the north shores of Apache Lake, Canyon Lake and Saguaro Lake to Cottonwood Creek; thence northerly along Cottonwood creek to the intersection with Forest System Road 401; continuing northerly on Forest System Road 401 to the intersection with Forest System Road 143; thence westerly on Forest System Road 143 terminating at the intersection with State Highway 87.

Forest System Road 583 from State Highway 87 will remain open for access to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. The Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department will be closed for public access.

State Highway 87, State Highway 260, and State Highway 188 are open.

County roads through the Tonto National Forest remain OPEN unless the road is specifically closed by the agency managing that road; all National Forest System roads and trails within the described area are closed.

In addition to the closures, fireworks are banned in all forests at all times.

The closures do not affect the owners or lessees of private lands or anyone attempting to access the RV dump site near Cholla Bay on State Highway 188.

A map of the closures is available here.