A significant portion of Arizona's northern forests — the summer playgrounds for people across the state — will close Friday to reduce the risk of wildfire.
Three of the state's six national forests — Tonto, Kaibab and Prescott — will implement partial closures at 8 a.m. Friday. A fourth, Coconino, will be totally closed to visitors.
Forest officials said closures reduce the risk of human-caused fires, and with the recent outbreaks of the Woody and Brins fires, they're not taking any chances.
"Temperatures are high, days are long, the humidity is lower and it increases the fire danger," said Vince Picard, deputy public affairs officer for the Tonto National Forest.
Closures in the Tonto forest include a five- to seven-mile stretch from Strawberry east to the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, and the Pinal Mountains south of Globe.
Only residents and government officials will be allowed in the area, which touches Payson, Camp Verde and the edge of Cave Creek.
Other parts of Tonto will remain open, but with tightened fire restrictions:
Campfires will not be allowed in the Payson, Pleasant Valley and Globe areas.
Campfires also are not allowed at the Camp Geronimo Boy Scout camp 20 miles north of Payson.
Coconino forest, near Sedona and Flagstaff, will close completely. All amenities will be off-limits, including campgrounds, picnic areas, trails, lakes and cabins.
Interstate highways and state and county roads will remain open; U.S. Forest Service roads will be closed.
Private campgrounds and the campground at Fort Tuthill County Park near Flagstaff will remain open, though campfires and smoking are not allowed.
Forest officials said they waited until Friday to close the forest so they could warn campers and close the gates to the roads.
Payson resident Shirley Colin, who called the Tribune on Wednesday, said the forests should have been closed earlier.
"To heck with coordinating," she said. "They need to have started this matter by at least the first of May. By now they would've had everybody out of there. There's no excuse about coordination. It's a little past time for that."
In the Kaibab National Forest, which includes Williams and the forest surrounding the Grand Canyon, only Bill Williams Mountain will be closed to public access. The mountain is south of Williams.
Closures in Prescott National Forest, which surrounds Jerome and Prescott, will be implemented near the Horsethief Basin Recreation Area and the Verde River.
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, which includes Show Low, Eagar and parts of New Mexico, will remain open, though there are smoking and campfire restrictions. Similar restrictions are in place in Coronado National Forest, which is just north of Douglas in southeastern Arizona.
Despite the numerous restrictions, there still are many areas around the state open for recreation — some even to campfires.
Bartlett, Saguaro, Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt lakes are open, and campfires are still allowed.
Picard said forests are not closed on a whim.
"We don't want to limit the recreation opportunities," he said. "We wouldn't do so if there wasn't a good reason."