Editor’s Note: The severe drought engulfing 90 percent of Arizona, coupled with an extremely dry winter, has left the state vulnerable yet again to wildfire after a historically highly active fire season last year. Expect fire restrictions to be announced sooner than usual by Maricopa County and other entities. The following press release from the Prescott National Forest today affects a vast swath of the state frequented by North Phoenix residents, including Flagstaff, Sedona and much of the I-17 corridor north of New River, both east and west.
The Prescott National Forest is entering into Stage I Fire Restrictions on Friday, April 20th at 08:00 a.m. The following prohibitions will be in effect for all Prescott National Forest lands:
- Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove, except in developed recreation sites with metal fire rings or cooking grills. Forest visitors are urged to reference the Prescott National Forest website for a list of developed recreation sites allowing campfires under Stage I Fire Restrictions (https://www.fs.usda.gov/prescott). These sites are also listed below.
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, or in a developed recreation site in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.
- Discharging a firearm, air rifle, or gas gun; except while engaged in a lawful hunt pursuant to state, federal laws and regulations.
Pete Gordon, Fuels, Fire, & Aviation Staff Officer for the Prescott National Forest says,
“There has been no appreciable amount of precipitation since the end of last summer’s monsoons and the little bit or rain and snow we received in January and February did nothing to relieve the situation. Much of the State of Arizona is in extreme drought with a forecast of below normal precipitation and above normal temps through the end of May. Our fire danger indicators are quickly moving toward significant levels. This means that wildfires will easily ignite and quickly become fires that may be difficult to control.
“The decision to implement Stage I restrictions is based on scientific indicators of conditions in addition to fire activity, resource shortages or potential, and other criteria affecting wildfire potential. The Prescott National Forest has coordinated closely with all of the area federal wildfire management agencies; Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management; Yavapai County Emergency Services; and all the municipal and volunteer fire departments in the Verde Valley, Prescott area, and others adjacent to the Forest.
“We recognize this may be an inconvenience to forest visitors, but ask everyone to consider as we do, the trade-off if we don’t attempt to curtail unwanted wildfires through restrictions. We hope the public joins us in seeing that the short term and minimal inconvenience associated with fire restrictions is well worth it if the alternative is a catastrophic wildfire. While restrictions can’t prevent all careless activity or choices to ignore the rules, fire managers are certain in their effectiveness in reducing the potential.
“Neighboring community members as well as Forest visitors are encouraged to act responsibly and remain vigilant. Fires can be started by many activities taken for granted and are not just limited to careless campfires or a carelessly placed cigarette. Pay attention to anything that creates heat or sparks such as dragging tow chains, welding a corral fence, or even mowing the grass where a hiding rock can cause a spark. It’s not just a concern of the Forest Service, but a shared concern among all agencies and our citizens – this area is prone to and likely to have a wildfire regardless of land ownership. This is the Wildland-Urban Interface.”
As a reminder, the use of exploding targets; incendiary devices; and fireworks are always illegal on National Forests Lands.
Violation of these fire restrictions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to six months.