Here is some updated information (posted Aug. 15, 2011) for hunters and other outdoor recreationists regarding public access to areas within the Wallow Fire burn perimeter, including a Frequently Asked Questions section (below) and a link to an updated map.
Arizona Game and Fish Department (Department) personnel in Region I have been coordinating with Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (Forest) staff to finalize the Forest’s decisions related to public access to those areas within the Wallow Fire burn perimeter. With fall hunting seasons rapidly approaching, this is a process of significant priority for the Department.
The following information encompasses the key elements and framework the Forest has announced and will utilize in opening the area of the Forest (those portions of Game Management Units 1 and 27) impacted by the Wallow Fire. In reviewing this information, please be advised of the following key points:
- Many areas within the Wallow Fire perimeter continue to present significant public safety hazards, primarily associated with dead (falling) trees and flash flood impacts. The amount and level of public access provided is largely dictated by these public safety concerns and liabilities.
- A prerequisite to reopening the Forest within the Wallow Fire burn perimeter has been clearing and preparing designated, priority roadways for safe public travel. Roads are being evaluated in an ongoing process for consideration of opening, with open roads for motorized travel being designated with white arrows. Roads and trails not having white arrows are closed to all motorized travel. As a result, vehicular access will be limited to white-arrow roads for a certain time, but foot and nonmotorized access will be available to all areas that are not designated as closed by the Forest.
- Forest users are responsible for their own safety and are encouraged to use caution as they utilize their Forest, and to do so in a responsible manner to ensure the protection of life, property and natural resources. Be aware of your surroundings – “Look up, look down and look around.”
WALLOW FIRE BURN AREA ACCESS - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Developed Aug. 15, 2011
Where can I drive within the Wallow Fire perimeter?
Motorized use within the fire perimeter will only be allowed on roads designated as open, indicated on the ground with a white arrow. With certain exceptions for motorized big game retrieval and fuelwood collection, cross-country motorized use is not allowed.
When will you open more roads?
Forest managers are evaluating conditions on a weekly basis to determine if additional roads or areas are safe for reentry. Typically, we’ll know by Wednesdays if any changes will be made for the weekend. Alternately, all currently open areas are subject to be closed again if safety conditions change. Be sure to Know Before You Go – double check conditions with your local Apache-Sitgreaves office or the website before you venture out.
Why do portions of the Forest need to remain closed after the fire is out?
Our number one priority is human safety. We’re dedicated to avoiding accidents and injuries as much as possible. After the fire is out, many hazards still exist, including stump holes, falling dead trees, and the potential for flash flooding. We’ll continue to work hard mitigating some of these hazards so we can begin opening certain areas for public reentry.
How long until all the areas within the fire perimeter are open?
The length of closure is dependent upon many criteria, including public safety, protection of property, and protection of forest resources (i.e., soils, vegetation, water quality, wildlife, fisheries, recreation, heritage, etc.). We’re working diligently to remove hazards and restore the forest to safer conditions for public use. We’ll be able to open some areas over the next several weeks. Other areas with severe damage will have to remain closed for some time.
If I encounter a road that is not shown on the map, but is posted with a white arrow on the ground, can I use it?
Yes. Postings with a white arrow on the ground supersede the map; however crews are in the process of signing some roads that are not yet open. Gates, barricades, and other closure signs supersede white arrows.
What hazards should I be aware of in burned areas?
Stump holes, flooding potential, washed out roads, falling trees/branches. Any time you enter the forest, you should be aware of your environment and changing weather conditions. The environment you are entering is highly susceptible to rainstorms and wind events. As always, Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I go hunting within the perimeter of the Wallow Fire?
Yes, with a valid hunting license, and as long as you’re driving only on roads designated as open with the posting of a white arrow, or entering via non-motorized means into off-road areas designated as open. Remember that hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I retrieve my legally harvested big game animal with a motorized vehicle within the Fire perimeter?
Yes. You may retrieve legally harvested animals by motorized means, so long as you do not cause resource damage. You may not enter areas designated as closed for either motorized or non-motorized game retrieval without additional authorization by the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests or the Arizona Game and Fish Department. You may not drive off-road to scout for game.
Can I pursue an animal that I wounded during hunting season into a closed area?
In certain circumstances, Apache-Sitgreaves or Arizona Game and Fish officials may consider limited entry into a closed area in pursuit of mortally wounded or deceased game animals. If you experience this situation, you must contact either the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Operation Game Thief hotline (24-hour, 7-day/week) at-1-800-352-0700 or the local Forest Service office (Alpine Ranger District Office at (928) 339-5000, or the Springerville District office at (928) 333-6200) during normal business hours to make a request of this nature.
I am a CHAMP hunter, am I allowed motorized use off designated roads and trails, or in areas designated as closed?
No. With the exception of retrieving legally harvested big game animals by motorized means, you are not allowed to use motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails.
Can I go fishing within the Wallow Fire perimeter?
Yes, with a valid fishing license, and as long as you remain in areas and along routes designated as open with a white arrow. Remember that hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I go camping in the campgrounds associated with the Wallow Fire?
Camping will continue within certain developed campgrounds deemed safe. Please keep in mind that certain campgrounds have been closed for an indeterminant length of time until hazards can be mitigated, and flooding potential subsides.
Can I camp in dispersed areas, outside of campgrounds, within the perimeter?
Yes. Dispersed camping is allowed within 30 feet of any motorized or non-motorized routes designated and posted on the ground with a white arrow. Please keep in mind that certain areas remain closed to dispersed camping in order to limit potential exposure to hazards by forest users, mitigate erosion potential, and minimize impacts to vegetation.
Can I camp further than 30 feet away from an open road if I walk in?
Yes. If you walk in, you may camp in any area designated as open. Vehicles must remain within 30 feet from an open road. Bear in mind that these areas have not been mitigated for hazards and pose a higher risk to your safety. Hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
When can I collect firewood within the fire perimeter?
Fuelwood permits are anticipated to be available beginning Tuesday, Aug. 23 from the Springerville and Alpine Ranger District offices. The cost will be $5 per cord with a minimum purchase of $20. The cost and regulations apply only to areas within the Wallow fire perimeter. All other areas are $10 per cord; regulations vary by district.
Where will I be able to collect firewood within the fire perimeter?
With a valid fuelwood permit, you may collect fuelwood within 150 feet from any Forest Service numbered road, except in closure areas and areas where fuelwood collection is normally restricted (campgrounds, wilderness, etc.). Remember that hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I drive off road to collect firewood within the perimeter of the Wallow Fire?
With a valid permit, you may retrieve your fuelwood by motorized means as far as 150 feet off the road, so long as you do not cause resource damage. You may not enter areas designated as closed. Remember that hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. You’re responsible for your own safety -- Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Why can fuelwood collectors drive on any numbered road and drive 150 feet off the road while hunters must remain within 30 feet of roads signed with a white arrow?
Fuelwood collection is a permitted activity administered by the Forest Service, not a licensed activity from the Arizona Game and Fish Department. By signing the permit, the collector agrees to the specific liability clauses within that permit, clauses that do not exist in hunting licenses.
In addition, collecting fuelwood from the burn area is helping to remove fuels that could lead to tree infestation and disease, as well as severe behavior of future fires. We want to encourage the public to help reduce that risk as much as possible while putting the wood to good use. Safety conditions still apply to all visitors within the fire perimeter: Hazards such as falling trees, stump holes, and potential flooding continue to exist in the area. Each individual is responsible for his or her own safety.
Can I use routes not designated with an arrow for non-motorized activities?
Yes, so long as the routes are not within a designated closure area, you may use routes for non-motorized activities. Please keep in mind that any area affected by the wildfire can be prone to hazards such as falling trees, flooding and burned out stump holes. Any time you enter the forest, you should be aware of your environment and changing weather conditions. The environment you are entering is highly susceptible to rainstorms and wind events. As always, Look Up, Look Down, and Look All Around.
Can I hike on trails within the fire perimeter?
While the trails within the open areas can be used, they have not been mitigated for hazards and pose a higher threat to your safety. We recommend that you try to find other locations across the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. Remember that you’re responsible for your own safety. While you’re hiking, continue to Look Up, Look Down, Look All Around.
What is the penalty for going into areas or on routes that are designated as closed?
Any violation of closure order is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for individuals, and $10,000 for organizations and/or imprisonment up to than six (6) months.
Does the white arrow program pre-empt the Travel Management Rule?
No. The White Arrow designation of motorized routes within the Wallow Fire perimeter is being used as an interim measure for the protection of public safety, property and forest resources. Further assessments will occur later in the year that will help Travel Management planners determine the next steps for moving forward in that process.
Where can I get a map of the routes designated as open to motorized use?
As motorized routes are assessed and opened for motorized entry, they will be depicted on a map, which is available to the public. This map will be updated on a periodic basis to accurately reflect conditions as they appear on the ground. The map is available from the link further down in this section, or can be obtained at any Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests' office, or at www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf.
How often will the map be updated?
The map will be periodically updated to reflect changes. Be sure to either check this web page, or call one of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests' offices, or check the Forests' website prior to venturing into the forest to ensure you have the most recent information.
OTHER KEY INFORMATION
- You are responsible for your own safety!
- Check in with a friend or family member; tell them where you are going, when you’re leaving, and when you plan to return.
- Whenever possible, travel in pairs.
- When parking your vehicle, look up for overhead hazards within 1 ½ times the length of the tallest tree surrounding your vehicle.
- Don’t camp in areas that have dead trees within 1 ½ tree lengths.
- Carry a communication device and check-in at regular intervals.
- Don’t cross washes when water is present.
- Flash flooding almost always follows large, intense wildfires. Locations in, near, and downstream of recently burned areas are now much more susceptible to flash flooding and debris flows.
- Remember...it does not take a heavy downpour to result in flash flooding on a burn scar.
- Even a short period of moderate rainfall on a severely burned watershed can lead to flash floods or debris flows. After soils and vegetation have been charred, rainfall that would normally be absorbed will run off extremely quickly. Severely burned soils can be as water repellent as pavement.
- Rapidly moving flood waters can pick up large amounts of debris that can damage or destroy culverts, bridges, roadways, and buildings, potentially causing injury or death. Flash floods in and near burn scars can be life threatening.
MAP and LIST OF FOREST ROADS CURRENTLY OPEN
- Click here to view the latest burn area access map. (Note: This map was posted Aug. 15 and will be updated as changes occur.)
- Click here for a list of Forest Roads currently open within the Wallow Fire perimeter.
The above information is also posted on the Arizona Game and Fish Department's website at www.azgfd.gov/wildfires.