PRESCOTT – Prescott National Forest officials are closing part of the forest Friday because of wildfire danger.
Officials also are expanding the fire-use restrictions area at 8 a.m. Friday.
The southwestern part of the forest, including Castle Creek Wilderness and the Horsethief Basin area, is closing. The closed area is generally bounded by the forest edge on the east and south, Bloody Basin Road (County Road 59) on the north, and a line from Forest Road 52 to Forest Road 100 to Trail 233 on the west.
The Forest Service is closing that area because nearly all of the ponderosa pine trees are dead, and evacuation in the event of a wildfire would take hours because the region is so remote, said Tony Sciacca, fire management officer for the Bradshaw Ranger District.
On the other hand, all of the other campgrounds south of Prescott are close to Prescott, he said.
People who lease a dozen summer homes in Horsethief Basin still will be able to use their homes, he said.
Most of the rest of the 1.2-million-acre forest is closed to all open fires, including campfires and charcoal grills. Smoking is allowed only in enclosed vehicles and buildings. This restriction now includes all developed campgrounds and recreation sites.
The only area of the forest now open to regular use is the southeastern portion of the Verde Ranger District. That area is generally east of Highway 260 in the north and east of Interstate 17 in the south.
The "energy release component," a measure of wildfire danger, keeps increasing despite scattered light rain showers this past week, Sciacca said.
However, he is glad to see that nearly everyone has been complying with the first stage of fire-use restrictions that went into effect May 20.
Last year during fire restrictions, forest officials found as many as a dozen abandoned campfires weekly, but this year it's more like about five a week, he said.
"I think people are more informed this year than last year," he said.
So far, Prescott National Forest firefighters have had to extinguish only two fires larger than campfires, and those were smaller than one acre.
Six fire prevention officers are patrolling the heavily used area between Prescott and Crown King.
Forest officials are re-evaluating fire restriction levels about every two weeks, Sciacca said, so they'll do it again in mid-June.
The Apache-Sitgreaves, Coronado and Tonto national forests in Arizona also have fire restrictions.
For details about fire restrictions on public lands throughout the state, visit the Arizona Interagency Wildfire Prevention Web site at www.azfireinfo.com, or call its toll free phone number at 877-864-6985.
Yavapai County and City of Prescott have instituted fire restrictions, too.
Fireworks always are prohibited on all national forest lands, as well as all of Arizona.
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