Fire Restrictions Start Wednesday in Arizona

May 9, 2011

Fire-use restrictions go into effect this week throughout the Prescott region and other parts of Arizona.

In an unusual move, the higher-elevation Coconino and southern Kaibab national forests started fire restrictions on Friday ahead of the ones for the Prescott National Forest.

Prescott’s fire restrictions will start on Wednesday, as will seasonal fire-use restrictions for the Tonto National Forest, U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands in the Phoenix District that includes Yavapai County, and state trust lands.

Dry conditions and high winds are major factors in the fire-use restrictions.

On public lands during these first-stage fire restrictions, people cannot light campfires or burn charcoal cooking fires unless they are in developed campgrounds with metal fire containers where they have to pay fees. That means fires are illegal in the free marked sites throughout the Prescott Basin on the Prescott National Forest.

The Daily Courier reports that Yavapai County also is likely to institute a seasonal ban on fireworks Wednesday, after the state made some fireworks legal on Dec. 1. Fireworks always are illegal on federal lands, and local fire districts also have year-round bans.

Smokers have to be in vehicles, buildings, developed campgrounds and picnic areas where the Forest Service charges fees, or areas where vegetation is cleared for 3 feet in diameter.

Violations can bring penalties of as much as $5,000 and six months in jail.

The Coconino and southern Kaibab forests had planned to start fire restrictions on May 11, but windy weather and warming temperatures pushed the fire danger up this week, said Don Muise, the forest’s assistant fire management officer.

“We’ve got conditions that could be volatile,” he said.

This is the earliest the Coconino Forest has instituted fire restrictions since 2002. It’s also the earliest fire restrictions for the Prescott Forest since 2006.

Coconino Forest officials are under pressure to start fire restrictions from residents concerned about last summer’s Schultz Fire and subsequent flooding in subdivisions northeast of Flagstaff. An unattended campfire ignited the blaze June 20 in the San Francisco Peaks area and burned more than 15,000 acres in 10 days.

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