Tonto National Forest lifts Bush Fire closure order

Release Date: Feb 3, 2021

PHOENIX, February 3, 2021 - The Tonto National Forest will be terminating the Bush Post Fire Flooding Public Safety Closure Order effective Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, at 8 a.m.

In mid-June of last year, the Bush Fire scorched almost 200,000 acres on the Mesa and Tonto Basin Ranger Districts in the Four Peaks Area. Following the fire, a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team conducted assessments to identify impacts and recommend actions for mitigating risk in and around the burned area.

The Forest Service BAER program provides guidance in the aftermath of a catastrophic wildfire with the goal of safeguarding forest visitors and employees, and protecting Federal property, water quality, and critical natural or cultural resources from further damage after the fire has been extinguished.

At the time, hydrology and soils modeling conducted by the BAER team in response to the Bush Fire indicated significantly increased risk of flash flooding and debris flows for many watersheds within and below the Bush Fire burn scar such as the Sycamore area.

“Since the initial closure in June, BAER teams have conducted ongoing assessments to monitor conditions and make recommendations to prevent a catastrophic event,” said Mesa District Ranger Matt Lane. “The safety of the public, our employees and first responders is our highest priority.”

This year most of the burn scar did not receive measurable rainfall during monsoon season, let alone sufficient water to trigger initial flushing flows. The combination of no flushing flows and the lack of significant rain to stimulate plant life, resulted in a long-term persistence of post-fire conditions favorable for a catastrophic flash flooding event that could have resulted in fatalities.

Although recent gentle rains and snow have lessened the risk in the area, the Tonto National Forest advises the public to use caution while within or downstream of burn areas during rain events due to the persistent threat of increased run-off and flooding that can occur after large fires.

For more information call the Mesa District Ranger Station at (480) 610-3300 or the Tonto Basin Ranger Station at (602) 225-5395 or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.