The recent fire activity and dry conditions across the state have prompted fire officials to implement Stage I Fire Restrictions across most of central and western Arizona. Some jurisdictions have also implemented firearm restrictions as well.
According to Tonto National Forest Fire Management Officer, Taiga Rohrer, the Maverick Fire that started May 8 in the Mesa Ranger District was one of six human-caused wildfire starts in the forest this month.
“With extreme drought, ‘very high’ to ‘extreme fire danger,’ no rain forecasted in the near future and rising temperatures, we’re anticipating an active wildfire season,” Rohrer said. “These fire restrictions will protect human life, property and our natural resources.”
On May 14, the Bureau of Land Management, Phoenix and Colorado River districts, Prescott National Forest, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, Tonto National Forest and Tonto National Monument implemented fire restrictions that prohibit campfires and smoking.
The restrictions specifically forbid “building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal or wood stove fire, except within a developed recreation site, or improved site.” It also bans smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building.
Developed recreation sites are defined by the Tonto National Forest as campgrounds and picnic areas that are maintained and administered by the Forest Service shown on current visitor maps and are equipped with permanent fire structures such as metal or concrete.
The BLM Fire District, BLM Colorado River District, Prescott National Forest and Tonto National Forest said they will prohibit discharging a firearm, air rifle or gas gun, except while engaged in a lawful hunt.
“Fireworks and exploding targets are never allowed on federal and state lands. Target shooting is prohibited year-round on state lands,” stated a press release from DFFM.
“Violation of restrictions is punishable by fine, imprisonment or both. Violators may also be held personally responsible for reimbursement of fire suppression costs.”
The restrictions will be in effect until rescinded.
Although fires are banned, pressurized liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters that have shut-off devices are allowed. However, recreationists should make sure the stove is stable and the area is clear of dried vegetation and other fine fuels to avoid starting a fire.
As people prepare for summer travels and camping, fire officials remind them to practice Leave No Trace Principles and to be vigilant in practicing fire safety.
“Cigarettes should never be thrown out the window of a vehicle,” DFFM said. “Never park a vehicle over dead grass as the catalytic converter can ignite the vegetation.”
In collaboration with these agencies, the Arizona Emergency Information Network started its fire safety outreach for recreationists. It emphasized these prevention measures, tightening towing chains and straps so they don’t drag, for OHV operators to stay on trails, and for motorists to pull over in areas without vegetation.
“As Valley temperatures increase, people are headed to public lands north of Phoenix this weekend,” the network stated in a press release. “Incident officials are asking that motorists drive slowly and stay out of the fire closure areas.”
Visitors should check with the respective jurisdictions they plan on visiting for the most up-to-date information about localized fire conditions, closures and restrictions. Tribal, federal, state and local mandates vary in their restrictions and it is best to contact the nearest land management agency office, or visit wildlandfire.az.gov for more information.