Originally Published: May 30, 2018 6:01 a.m.
Due to increasing drought conditions, very high fire danger and public safety concerns, the Prescott National Forest (PNF) will implement an area closure on the Bradshaw Ranger District at 8 a.m. Friday June 1.
Areas outside of the closure will remain in Stage 2 Fire Restrictions. The partial closure comes on the heels of other closures for state-owned and National Forest lands in neighboring counties.
The PNF reminds concerned residents that forest closures are not taken lightly, as they affect many people, businesses, partner agencies, important restoration and other work on the forest, and the public.
“When it comes to implementing both fire restrictions and closures, community sentiment is always a major consideration for forest leadership,” said PNF spokesperson Debbie Maneely. “We balance the need for restrictions with allowing public access to the National Forest and limiting the economic impacts to neighboring communities.”
Forest leadership carefully decide which areas meet specific criteria for closure, which include, but are not limited to, the following:
Fire danger: Areas where the moisture content level of live and dead vegetation is extremely low.
Vulnerability: Areas that are most vulnerable to fire suppression efforts due to inaccessibility, limited resources, and are difficult to evacuate visitors quickly and safely.
Values at risk from wildfire: Values such as life, critical watersheds, trailheads, campgrounds, utility corridors, private property, communities, and critical infrastructure, etc.
Topography: Areas with steep slopes and canyons that are difficult to access and effectively suppress wildfires, hazardous areas for firefighters, and areas which often align with traditional wind directions.
When forest closures are in effect, the public is prohibited from entering the closed areas. Exceptions may be made for Forest Service personnel conducting official business, certain contractors, and permit holders. The Forest Service cannot deny private land owners access to their land which may include access through the forest. Fire managers ask their neighbors to be vigilant and careful as they access private land. Law enforcement and fire prevention patrols have been increased on all districts along with additional fire suppression resources stationed in the area. Information is being disseminated far and wide about forest conditions and the need to be extremely careful when using the forest. The public can help by spreading the word, reporting violators, and making sure their homes and communities are fire-wise.
This area closure has been in the planning phases for nearly two weeks, and is part of a larger process that includes multiple criteria to determine the level of extra precautions. Stage 1 and the current Stage 2 fire restrictions are part of this process. Stage 2 has been very effective to date.
The closure to be implemented on June 1 addresses a significant portion of the forest that is relatively inaccessible to firefighters, and has large expanses of dry chaparral vegetation and few hazardous fuel treatments.
Closures and fire restrictions will be lifted when sufficient precipitation is received to adequately reduce the risk of wildfire, and hot, dry weather conditions are not forecast to continue.
Interested community members who would like more information on current forest conditions, fire restrictions and the area closure; the PNF will be hosting an open-house from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Davis Learning Center and Auditorium, 20 Hunt Drive, in Prescott.
Violating any fire restrictions carries a mandatory appearance in federal court, punishable as a Class B misdemeanor with a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or up to six months in prison, or both.
The public can obtain additional fire information via the following:
Arizona Fire Restrictions: https://firerestrictions.us/az
Public Lands in Arizona: www.wildlandfire.AZ.gov or call 1-877-864-6985
Prescott National Forest Web Site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/prescott/
Local Ranger Stations: Bradshaw Ranger District, 928-443-8000; Chino Valley Ranger District 928-777-2200; Verde Ranger District 928-567-4121
Information provided by the Prescott National Forest