Extra officers now enforcing forest closures

The Coronado National forest was closed indefinitely starting at noon, on Thursday.

Forest service officials put up barricades and signs warning of the closures at all trail heads, picnic and camp sites, and overlooks.

Heidi Schewel, a Public Information Officer for the Coronado National Forest said it was the only way to protect one of our most valuable resources.  Extreme fire danger, dry fuels and intense heat meant 100% fire danger out there.

Schewel said a tiny spark on the dry ground would 100% lead to a fire that would burn very hot, and be extremely difficult to fight.

Forest Service officials were patrolling the roads and trails to make sure people were not breaking the law.

Pima County deputies were also helping enforce the closures by patrolling the road leading up to Mt. Lemmon, and making sure nobody was going past the barricades put up at the overlooks.

Schewel said they had to shut down the overlooks because it was a hot spot for smokers.  People would often throw their burning cigarettes into the mountains, and that could cause a lot of trouble.

On top of Mt. Lemmon, the residents of Summerhaven welcomed the closure of the Coronado National Forest.

Many of them had lived through wildfires in 2003, that was the last time the entire forest was closed off.

Karen Shenk said she lost everything she owned, including her home in that fire.  She said these closures brought back bad memories, and felt it was about time forest service officials closed off forest land.

"We want people to come up to Summerhaven and visit our businesses here, but we don't want them to come up here and smoke.  We don't want them to come here and light campfires.  Just come up and enjoy the mountains," said Shenk.

Due to the closed overlooks, many tourists were pulling their cars off the roads at parking pull-offs to take pictures of the amazing view.

Forest service officials warned that you could get into trouble for that as well.

Schewel said even though the road leading up to Summerhaven remained open, it was only an access road to a destination.

Those destinations included businesses in Summerhaven, or the visitor's center.  Parking on the shoulder or pulling off the road was not permitted.

Schewel said most of the time officers would issue verbal warnings or violation notices.  This time they would not do that.

Those caught breaking the law could face up to $5,000 in fines and go to jail for 6 months.