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Mon, June 17

PNF lifts fire bans today

PRESCOTT – The Prescott National Forest lifted all its fire restrictions today.

For the first time in more than three months, visitors to the 1.3 million-acre forest now can have campfires at all legal campsites and smoke at any location.

"The Prescott National Forest has received sufficient rain to allow us to lift all restrictions," Fire Management Officer Robert Morales said. "During the last couple weeks we have experienced higher relative humidity, greater fuel moisture content, and the Energy Release Component (ERC) dropped to 52.

"Under these conditions, the probability of a fire escaping initial attack is minimal."

Early this month, the ERC was hitting a record 105. The ERC is a measurement of the moisture in the woody fuels that helps officials determine how fast a wildfire might spread.

One example of how the wildfire danger is lower is the behavior of the Granite Fire. Lightning started it on the south side of Granite Mountain July 16, and firefighters didn't try to put it out. It burned itself out this week after growing to only one-tenth of an acre.

Prescott National Forest officials instituted the fire ban on April 18, the earliest in its history. Then a week after the Indian Fire burned down five homes on the south side of Prescott, officials closed the forest May 17 for the first time in history. Monsoon rains arrived July 9, and the forest reopened July 19.

"We did not experience one human-caused wildfire during the 55 days the forest was closed," Deputy Forest Supervisor Mike Baca said. "This is a direct result of the hard work and cooperation by Prescott National Forest employees, our cooperators, and the public."

The 1,365-acre Indian Fire area, including the Indian Creek Campground, will remain closed to the public indefinitely because of safety concerns and the ongoing rehabilitation work.

While the monsoon season has brought rain to the Prescott area, it has produced only about two-thirds of the average so far.

As of Tuesday, Prescott's official measuring site on the northeast side of town had registered 1.99 inches of rain in July. The 104-year average for July is 2.94 inches.

The last precipitation occurred July 24. National Weather Service forecasters predict as much as a 30 percent chance of rain through this week.

While the extremely dry conditions have abated, forest users still need to be conscientious about extinguishing all campfires and smoking materials, officials added.

For more information about closures and fire restrictions on all public lands in Arizona, visit the Arizona Fire Information Web site at www.azfireinfo.com, or call 877-864-6985 toll free.

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