DPS Air Rescue on campfire patrol

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“We're going to go out and look for camp fires,” Department of Public Safety officer Jason Tarr said. “Obviously there's a high fire danger out here with the recent fires we've been working with lately.”

The DPS Air Rescue is back on patrol. This comes after the Hardy wildfire which broke out inside the Flagstaff city limits last month. 

Investigators think a campfire was to blame for that before it was put out. The fire had forced evacuations and scorched 300 acres. And because of the dry conditions that campfire was not allowed forcing firefighters to go on the offensive.

“We have found a small number of people that have been violating the camp fires, but for the most part, they've been following the laws and just using lights at night,” Officer Tarr said. “But all it takes is one fire to cause a catastrophic fire.”

Tarr took 3TV out for an air ride. He showed us the type of technology they use to find those camp fires.

“At night we're flying the night vision goggles,” Tarr continued. “We can see fires from miles away.”

Looking at Flagstaff thru the goggles gives us a good idea of what a powerful tool they can be. Fortunately there were no camp fires burning in the Coconino National Forest on this night, but having the ability to spot trouble before it turns into a big problem is definitely an advantage for firefighters.

“Absolutely still come out here and have fun,” Tarr said. “You just need to follow the laws on the camp fires and keep the camp fires away until restrictions go away.”

Not following those camp fire restrictions in the state of Arizona could get people into a lot of trouble.

“If they were actually to leave a fire, cause a wild land fire from an abandoned camp fire or unattended fire, they could be liable for the suppression cost of those fires which can range quickly into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars if not more,” Helen Graham said.

Graham is with the Tonto National Forest. She said while they want you to enjoy your camping experience, it's important to still know the do's and don’ts when it comes to camp fires to make sure your next outing is a safe one.

 “They'll see signage. They'll see signage in the local markets, gas stations and they'll see signage once they enter the agency's campground areas.”