Less than 24 hours before the Coronado National Forest closed, Mt. Lemmon was a study in contrasts.
Most of the scenic overlooks and campgrounds were deserted, as many forest users had already heard about the impending closure and left the mountain.
But at the Marshall Gulch trail head, there were campers waiting to be picked up. They were disappointed that their camping trip was cut short, but understood why the forest was closing.
In the town of Summerhaven, Debbie Fagen rang up customers in her gift shop and expressed gratitude that the forest service was taking steps to protect the mountain and town she's called home for 32 years.
She survived the 2003 Aspen Fire that destroyed much of Summerhaven, and quickly rebuilt both her home and business.
In the Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin, Hilary Ingalls was working the busy lunch rush, and explained to customers that there could be a 30 minutes wait for a pizza. She paused briefly between taking orders and making change to say she's worried that business will slow during the closure. But she agreed conditions are too dangerous to leave the forest open.
And at the Mt. Lemmon Fire Station, chief Randy Ogden nervously eyed the forest. He's never seen it as dry as it is now. He worries that if a fire does start on the mountain, he'll lack the resources to fight it.
All units of the Coronado National Forest are closed to the public as of noon on Thursday, June 9th. Forest officials decided to close the forest because of extreme fire conditions and a lack of resources to fight a fire should one arise.
The closure affects all scenic overlooks and campgrounds on Mt. Lemmon, as well as the Oracle Control Road, Madera Canyon, Parker Canyon Lake and Mt. Graham. Drivers can use the Catalina Highway to travel to Summerhaven and Ski Valley on Mt. Lemmon, but otherwise cannot stop along the road on the way up.
Mt. Lemmon Fire Chief Randy Ogden sat down with us to discuss the resources he has to fight fires on Mt. Lemmon. He also talks about the dangerous conditions on the mountain, how his crews respond to fires, and what they do to work with Summerhaven homeowners to create "defensible space" around their homes. Click to listen:
Find more details on wildfire news and safety at AZPM's Fire Hub.