The Coconino and Kaibab National Forests have entered stage two fire restrictions. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, fire crews are preparing for an above-average wildfire season in Arizona.
A campfire ban has been in place since April, but Coconino National Forest has found more than 300 illegal and abandoned campfires in that time. Spokesperson True Brown says that compares to just over 500 illegal campfires for all of last year. He says, "Visitor usage, as anybody can attest, has been really unprecedented, and it’s just making sure people are staying safe and paying attention to those regulations."
The initial campfire ban was in response to the coronavirus pandemic; new Stage 2 restrictions are due to increasing wildfire danger. Fire officials expect above-normal fire conditions in Arizona for June and July. Mark Thibideau, spokesperson for the Southwest region, says weather conditions are typical, "but this year we’re seeing an increase in fuel loading. We’ve had a couple of wet winters and especially this last winter, we’ve had the moisture to increase the fine fuels, all the grasses."
Prescott and Tonto national forests are also at stage 2 restrictions, as well as Coconino County. The restrictions prohibit building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire, charcoal or wood stove, including fires in developed campgrounds or improved sites. Smoking is prohibited except within enclosed vehicles or buildings. Welding, or operating a torch with an open flame is also prohibited, as is operating a chainsaw or other internal combustion engine between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Discharging a firearm, air rifle or gas gun except while engaged in a lawful hunt is also banned under Stage II restrictions.