Open fires, smoking banned in mountain, desert preserves in Phoenix

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Starting Monday, open fires and smoking are banned in Phoenix mountain and desert preserves. The ban includes charcoal fires, but not propane or gas grills.

The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department implements fire bans every year as temperatures rise, humidity drops and spring winds kick up to increase fire danger. The concern is that a stray ember or smoldering cigarette can quickly grow into a out-of-control fire.

The 2013 ban has three main points.

  1. Open, wood and charcoal fires are prohibited in any part of the Phoenix mountain preserves.
  2. Smoking outside of enclosed vehicles will continue to be prohibited.
  3. Propane or gas grills may be used, but only in established picnic areas.

City officials remind those driving through or near preserve lands to be extremely careful with smoking materials, disposing of them only in their vehicles' ash trays.

Propane and gas grills are exempt because the are contained and easier than an open fire to control. Park rangers advise picnickers and campers to make sure there is no dry vegetation near their equipment.

"Move it away from there so you can still enjoy the experience ...," Park Ranger Winston Lyon told 3TV's Yetta Gibson Monday morning.

"Common sense will always prevail,"  he continued. "The most important thing I would like the public to understand … is that we want this to be a safe environment for them and everybody else that comes after them."

It's not just visitors to the preserves who need to take heed as we get into fire season.

Park rangers suggest those who live in houses bordering the preserves remove dry shrubs, dry grass and dead branches to create a 10-foot buffer zone around their homes. Such a buffer can help protect their homes should a fire break out in the nearby preserve. While residents cannot remove native vegetation from preserve land, they can trim it.

In addition, residents should check irrigation lines and pool back-wash hoses to make sure that no extra water is seeping into the preserve, causing increased vegetation growth and thus fire risk.

The ban applies to Camelback Mountain, Papago Park, all areas of the Phoenix Mountains, South Mountain Park/Preserve, North Mountain and surrounding areas, the Sonoran Preserve, and the Deem Hills area. The fire ban does not apply to traditional city parks.

For general information or for guidance before removing vegetation, residents can contact a park ranger by calling 602-495-5458 or by email at