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Coronado National Forest remains open while others close due to wildfire danger

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 6:47 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Over 20 active wildfires are burning across our Arizona and hundreds of thousands of acres have been destroyed.

Starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday, the Coconino and Kaibab national forests will close because of the high wildfire danger and dry conditions. Other national forests, including the Coronado, will remain open.

“We’re just not there yet. Our conditions may be different than some of the other forests. We have precipitation in our forecast now and we’ve been in Stage II fire restrictions for quite some time,” Coronado National Forest’s Heidi Schewel explains.

In fact, Coronado jumped straight to Stage II and the next stage would be closure.

Schewel said one of the reasons Coronado is staying open is because people have been following the restrictions so well.

“People are still able to use the area, they just need to realize what the threats could be and to be careful and know what the restrictions are,” she said.

Schewel said the chance of rain and the humidity are allowing Coronado to stay open.

Coronado National Forest officials are monitoring circumstances for closure on a day-to-day basis, and sometimes even multiple times a day. One of those circumstances is the extremely dry conditions, but the Monsoon could turn all of that around if we get enough rain to battle Arizona’s severe drought.

The Monsoon is just what Coconino National Forest officials are hoping for.

“We would need to receive quite a bit of precipitation to take us out of a drought and dry conditions,” said Brady Smith with the Coconino National Forest. “It would have to be a rain event that is continued and is forecasted to continue.”

Closing the Coconino Forest was not a decision that was taken lightly.

“It is something we have to consider a lot of different criteria; it has pretty much met all of the criteria to do that,” Smith said. “That means the conditions are dry enough, the forecast and the weather has been warm and dry enough and it has continued to be warm and hot.”

Smith said they are also concerned over the slim resources to fight wildfires because there are so many going on across the state.

One of the benefits of closing the forest is eliminating the risk of someone starting a fire.

Smith said if conditions don’t improve, the forest will likely remain closed.

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