Thursday, June 09, 2011

Alert for Tourism in E. Central and Southern Arizona

As a monster fire continues to burn out of control in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest 250 miles east of Phoenix, travelers in Arizona need to stay alert about highway closings.

Meanwhile, the media continue to focus almost exclusively on structures, while overlooking the profound environmental disaster on vast areas of Arizona wilderness and recreational lands.

Here's the update on that fire, called the Wallow fire, which now involves more than 3,000 firefighters and has burned nearly 400,000 acres.

Today, nearly 20 miles of U.S. 60 was closed from Springerville to the New Mexico state line. The closing stretches from milepost 384 to 401, the state highway department says, adding:

State Route 260 is closed in both directions east of the Hawley Lake turnoff (State Route 473 junction) and Eagar. SR 260 is closed between mileposts 372-398 near Eagar.

State Route 373, a 4.5 mile-long highway that connects the town of Greer in eastern Arizona with SR 260 west of Eagar, is closed.

U.S. 191 is closed between Alpine and north of Clifton (mileposts 176-253).

State routes 261 and 273, the main access roads to Big Lake and Crescent Lake in the White Mountains, are closed. SR 261 is closed starting approximately seven miles south of SR 260 to Crescent.

Lake (mileposts 395-413) and SR 273 is closed between the SR 260 junction and to the SR 261 junction (mileposts 378-394).

U.S. 180 is closed between the SR 260 junction near Eagar and the New Mexico state line (mileposts 403-433).

Besides the Wallow fire affecting the above closings, there is another large fire, the Horseshoe fire, burning in the Chiricahua Mountains east of the old cowboy town of Tombstone (a tourist spot) in the southern part of Arizona, where 116,000 acres have burned. Firefighters today are worried that the Horseshoe fire, which was thought to be on its way to containment, may now be spreading as dry grass and other brush pose extreme dangers.

Also in southern Arizona is another large fire, the Murphy fire, burning on grasslands and desert terrain between Arivaca and Tubac (a big tourist destination) just above the Mexican border, south of Tucson.

Roads and tourism in those areas are also affected.

In addition, as I noted yesterday, forest, mountain and desert recreational areas throughout the Tucson region and south are adversely affected by the extreme fire dangers in the region, where temperatures are high, relative humidity is very low, winds are breezy -- and where it hasn't really rained since last Thanksgiving.

The Tucson region is famed for hiking, biking and horseback riding -- and fire danger has put the kibosh on all of those. All of the trails and washes in Saguaro National Park on the east side of Tucson are now closed indefinitely, till the extreme fire danger passes, possibly not till monsoon season in July, when the Sonoran Desert gets most of its annual rainfall. All of Pima County's trails and washes are closed, as are all regions of Coronado National Forest.


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