http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/ Tonto to Close Some Areas to Public Access PHOENIX: May 23, 2005 Safety concerns over wildfires spreading faster than firefighters can catch them is prompting some area closures on the Tonto National Forest beginning Wednesday at 8 a.m. “We understand that closing portions of the forest before Memorial Day will have severe impacts on the public, but the concern is how to ensure everyone’s safety,” said Acting Forest Supervisor Tom Klabunde. “With the two recent fires that we had near Bartlett Lake, the St. Clair and Bart fires, we learned an important lesson – these desert wildfires are spreading faster than we can handle them.” “The presence of people in these areas raises some serious safety concerns,” said Klabunde. “Access in and out is severely limited and a high concentration of visitors in the area increases the risk of fires. Rather than take a chance that we can get everyone out safely in the event of a wildfire, I have decided it makes more sense to close it to public access until the fire danger subsides.” Developed recreation areas such as campgrounds and picnic areas at Bartlett Lake, as well as the Bartlett Lake Road, are exempt from the closure order, as are all campsites at Seven Springs and the Butcher Jones Picnic Area. Fire restrictions still apply for these sites. The order does close all public access to developed recreation sites at both Horseshoe Lake and the Needle Rock Recreation Area on the Verde River. Klabunde added that while the vast majority of forest visitors respect the fire restrictions, it only takes one careless act to spark a serious wildfire. Since the Tonto implemented fire restrictions in mid-April, more than 100 individuals have been ticketed for illegal fire activity. Conditions are so severe that the tiniest spark can start a fire. Fires have resulted from recreation shooting, catalytic converters touching grass, safety chains on trailers dragging on the pavement and a variety of other unlikely sources. “Both the St. Clair and Bart fires were caused by people, and if either of those fires had broken out near an occupied campground, there may well have been serious consequences,” Klabunde said. “Just on the Bart Fire, firefighters were on the scene within 10 minutes of its start, and it still quickly spread to more than 10,000 acres.” Area closures prohibit going into or being within the area, which is closed for the protection of public health and safety. Being on any forest roads or trails or camping within the closure area is also prohibited. Exceptions include residents who live within the closure area or their invitees and government officials in the performance of official duties. The closure encompasses northern portions of both the Cave Creek and Mesa ranger districts. It begins at the intersection of Forest Trail 223 and the Mazatzal Wilderness Area and then follows Trail 223 across the Sheep Bridge and then northwest along Forest Road 269 to Forest Road 24, which is the Seven Springs Road. The closure boundary then goes south along Forest Road 24 until it intersects with Forest Road 483, which loops around Rackensack before hitting the forest boundary. The closure then follows the forest boundary until its intersection with Arizona Highway 87; it then follows Highway 87 north to the Bush Highway and then goes south on Forest Road 166 to the Butcher Jones Picnic Area. The closure then runs along the north waterlines of Saguaro, Canyon and Apache lakes until it runs into Arizona Highway 188 at Roosevelt Lake. The boundary then runs northwest on Highway 188 until it intersects with Arizona Highway 87;.it then runs south along Highway 87 until it intersects with Forest Road 627; then southwest on 627 to Forest Road 393; then along 393 to the Mazatzal Wilderness Area. The boundary then follows the wilderness border counterclockwise back to the start. These prohibitions will remain in effect until rescinded. The fire restrictions previously put into place on a larger swath of the forest also remain in effect. Violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail. For more specific information about the closure areas, including maps, visit the Tonto website at www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto. For other local fire restrictions and Southwest public lands fire information, go to www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire or call toll-free 1-877-864-6985.