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Wed, June 26

Forest fire restrictions expand; southwest portion closes<BR>

Prescott National Forest officials closed part of the forest last Friday because of wildfire danger. Officials also expanded the fire-use restrictions area.

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 closed that area because nearly all 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.

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 last 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.

For details about fire restrictions, visit www.azfireinfo.com, or call the toll free phone number 877-864-6985.

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