Group wants campfire ban during wildfire season

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Campfires are a big part of camping, but a grassroots effort is under way to ban them in certain areas.

The 2010 Schultz Fire charred 15,000 acres of the San Francisco Peaks directly behind the Flagstaff home of Luann Meek.

"My house has almost been burned three times," she said.

Meek and others have formed Campfires Limited, a grassroots organization that is pushing the U.S. Forest Service to prohibit campfires outside designated areas between May 1 and July 15.

"But they're sitting on their thumbs again," Meek said. "I don't know what they're waiting for."

Arizona's biggest wildfire, the Wallow Fire, was one of three campfire-started blazes that destroyed more than 1 million acres during May and June 2011.

"We just think that postponing that campfire experience that people talk about for maybe eight or 10 weeks until the rains come is not really asking too much of anyone," said Cam McCauley with Campfires Limited.

"For as many phone calls as we get to have campfire bans automatically each year, we get just as many against that position," said Brady Smith with the Coconino National Forest.

Smith said the National Forest Service tries to balance protecting the forest with the needs and desires of those who use it.

"A lot of people depend on the forest for economical reasons or for their work," Smith said. "Any time we go into fire restrictions, it affects that."

With so much land eaten up by campfires gone bad, those who want a 10-week campfire ban say it all comes down to common sense.

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