Tonto National Forest trying to discourage large gathering

January 7, 2021 GMT

MESA. Ariz. (AP) — Tonto National Forest officials are trying to discourage the annual January informal gathering known as the Christmas Tree Burn that has attracted thousands of people in the past.

Forest officials said Wednesday that Arizona’s COVID-19 restrictions prohibit large gatherings and that areas of the forest’s Mesa Ranger District may be closed temporarily for recreation use to ensure that the gathering doesn’t occur.

According to forest officials, thousands of people in the past have gathered on the forest to burn Christmas trees, resulting in numerous accidents, injuries and criminal behavior.


The gathering last year of some 8,000 people in the Lower Sycamore area northwest of Roosevelt Lake left large amounts of trash, abandoned campfires and other damage throughout the area, officials said in a statement.

The Lower Sycamore area is closed due to the possibility of flooding from wildfire burn scars.

Mesa District Ranger Matthew Lane said forest personnel will enforce restrictions that limit the number of people who can gather in groups.

According to forest officials, an approved permit is required for all gatherings of over 75 people.