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Five national forests in Arizona that closed due to fire risk are open again after summer rains provided a much-needed dose of moisture to the drought-stricken state.
The Coconino, Prescott, and Kaibab National Forests opened to visitors on Monday, while the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests lifted their closure orders on Wednesday at 8 a.m.
The closures were a response to an intense, climate-change-fueled early fire season in the state, with more than 1,100 fires torching over 453,000 acres so far. This year, the state has experienced its worst drought in 126 years, and, according to paleontological evidence, one of its worst in more than a millennium, experts told a U.S. House panel earlier this year. With vegetation kindling-dry, the Forest Service shut down the Coconino, Prescott, Kaibab, Tonto, and Apache-Sitgreaves as a precautionary measure to ensure that drivers or campers didn’t accidentally spark a blaze.
In a press release, the Forest Service said that increased rainfall and cooler temperatures made it possible to safely reopen the forests. However, some closures will remain in place around active wildfires and Bill Williams Mountain in the Kaibab National Forest. In addition, all five forests will remain under Stage II fire restrictions, which ban fires and restrict the use of generators, chainsaws, and other devices powered by internal combustion engines.