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Heightened wildfire threat prompts stricter restrictions

Heightened restrictions ordered by the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Coronado, Kaibab, Prescott and Tonto national forests take effect on Thursday.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 8:19 PM MST
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FLAGSTAFF, AZ (AP/3TV/CBS 5) -- Arizona’s national forests and some local governments and land management agencies are implementing stricter campfire and smoking restrictions because of the heightened wildfire threat. Heightened restrictions ordered by the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Coronado, Kaibab, Prescott and Tonto national forests take effect on Thursday.

Along with restricting campfires and smoking, the forests’ heightened restrictions prohibit or impose limits on various activities. They include shooting, welding, using chainsaws, running generators and driving motor vehicles off roads. An Apache-Sitgreaves statement said the restrictions “are necessary to reduce human-caused wildfires during periods of high fire danger and persistent severe fire conditions.”

The restrictions come in place ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management will have patrols out this weekend monitoring high-risk areas for possible illegal campfires. Last week, Coconino County fire officials responded to at least 15 illegal campfires despite the restrictions. Crews will be patrolling areas including New River, Anthem and State Route 74 near Lake Pleasant.

“Memorial Day weekend is here. We’re going to start seeing the middle 100s,” said Tiffany Davila with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management. Davila says firefighters in Arizona are typically busiest from May into June. While there have been fewer fires in 2022 compared to last year, 10,000 more acres have burned in our state. That includes the Crooks Fire and the Tunnel Fire near Flagstaff, which sadly destroyed about 30 homes in April.

However, Davila said southern Arizona has seen the most fire activity in the last month with issues on Interstate 10 including chains sparking. “The grass is chest high in some parts. It’s very dry. And basically, it’s just a tinderbox waiting to burn,” Davila explained. She wants to remind you to check restrictions and conditions before traveling this summer. Also, make sure your car and tires have been checked out and are safe for driving.

Arizona’s Family news staff contributed to this report.

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