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Fear of wildfires forces forest closures across Arizona

Arizona wildfires
Posted at 1:55 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 18:45:59-04

National forests in Arizona are the go-to spots in the summer as people look to escape sweltering desert temperatures.

The options for cooling off are limited now. Nearly all the national forests in the state will be fully closed this week as firefighting resources run thin and fire danger remains high. Wildfires burning across Arizona already have forced rural residents out of their homes and sent motorists on detours.

Portions of forests in other states also are off-limits, but the shutdowns in Arizona are the most widespread. The closures are altering vacation plans for campers, anglers and mountain bikers ahead of the July 4 holiday.

The Coconino and Kaibab national forests closed to the public on Wednesday because of the "fire danger, dry conditions, and persistent wildfire activity during a time when firefighting resources are sparse," according to the Forest Service.

"A full forest closure means that the public is prohibited from entering any part of Coconino National Forest at any time. Only those with private inholdings will be allowed access to their property, as well as personnel providing utility support where necessary, and firefighters performing their duties," a news release said.

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest announced Tuesday, due to extreme fire danger and dry conditions during a time when firefighting resources are stretched thin, the entire forest will close for public safety, beginning Thursday, June 24 at 6 a.m.

Prescott National Forest will close for the same reasons beginning Friday, June 25 at 8 a.m.

Tonto National Forest said Tuesday they will be implementing a Stage 3 Forest Closure on Friday but some areas will remain accessible.