Violations included DUIs, and one person was medevac’d out by helicopter
In today’s WTAF news, more than 5,000 people (yes, thousands) attended an illegal party in the middle of a national forest in Arizona. The massive party, which took place last weekend and in the midst of a global pandemic, is believed to be the largest ever recorded at Tonto National Forest. Oh, right, and it not only put the Forest Service personnel, first responders, and the public at risk, but it sent one partygoer to the hospital.
According to the U.S. Forest Service-Tonto National Forest, forest protection personnel noticed the illegal and highly irresponsible party when they found primary routes blocked by partygoers, as well as directions on display guiding people to the gathering.
“Numerous Forest Protection Officers were out patrolling Lower Sycamore Saturday night when a surge of people came to attend this unauthorized event,” the organization writes on Facebook.
According to the U.S. Forest Service’s statement, visitor violations included DUIs, double riding, speeding/reckless vehicle operation, user-created vehicle staging areas in the burned area, camps blocking roadways, illegal use of fireworks and target shooting with unknown back stops.
By the end of the evening, the U.S. Forest Service reported seven vehicle accidents and multiple reports of stolen off-highway vehicles. Two quads collided, as well, and one person was medevac’d out by helicopter due to the restrictions caused by the partiers.
“Off-roading is something that we support as an organization. It’s something that a lot of Arizonans enjoy. But when you get that many people in one place, you’re doing it to the detriment of other people who want to enjoy it and of course the wildlife itself,” Scott Garlid with the Arizona Wildlife Federation tells local station 3TV/CBS 5.
Further, “campers and partiers restricted access by taping off sections of the main road to designate their camping area and vehicles were parked all along the main roads,” the organization states.
No citations were given and no arrests were made, according to 12 News, who also reported that eight deputies responded to the party.
“There were plenty of tickets issued for riding two up on ATVs. Not wearing helmets for children,” says Susan Blake with Tonto National Forest.
The party took place in the Lower Sycamore Creek area of the national forest. Sandy Bahr with the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter says she was “horrified” to see the party.
“That many people engaged in those types of activities in one area — it’s going to be super destructive,” Bahr says.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, Tonto National Forest — the seventh-largest national forest in the United States with more than 2.9 million acres — requires a permit application to be submitted and approved for all gatherings of over 75 people.
“Don’t be a part of the problem,” the U.S. Forest Service writes. “Report these illegal Facebook meet up events to our district offices.”