Originally Published: June 4, 2003 6:10 p.m.
The closure of part of the Prescott National Forest because of increasing wildfire danger should surprise no one but people who have been in a coma the past two years.
Forest officials closed the southwestern part of the forest, including the Castle Creek Wilderness and the Horsethief Basin area because nearly all of the ponderosa pine trees are dead from the bark beetle infestation, and the area would be nearly impossible to evacuate in a wildfire.
Unless we get an unexpected monsoon or summer snowstorm, restrictions will keep ratcheting up as the summer gets hotter and the forest gets drier.
The beetle-killed trees and the still-standing trunks of trees in the Indian Fire burn area simply will keep becoming better and more volatile fuel just waiting for the next dry lightning strike or stupid human to touch it off.
Wherever the next fire starts, and it will, all the firefighters and firefighting resources in the area will stretch to the limit. If a fire starts, especially in the remote, barely accessible wooded areas south of Prescott, the city stands a good chance of taking its place beside Los Alamos, N.M., in the history of wildfire disasters.
We have no control over Mother Nature's dry lightning strikes, but people do have control over their conduct. It's obvious from the number of abandoned campfires rangers have found since the first announcement of open burning restrictions that we have no shortage of stupid, irresponsible people out there.
Lightning or terminal brainlessness, let's hope they strike where firefighters have quick access.