The U.S. Forest Service will ban campfires on all six national forests in Arizona beginning Wednesday.
According to the agency, the order is designed to protect the health and safety of employees and communities during the coronavirus outbreak.
“While we know that going outside provides forest and grassland visitors needed space, exercise and satisfaction, we are taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously,” Acting Regional Forester Elaine Kohrman said in a press release. “We are providing some recreation opportunities where we can while protecting and keeping employees, the public and our communities safe from the virus and unwanted human-caused wildfires.”
Officials say the ban will prevent the drawdown of fire and medical resources to human-caused wildfires that often result from unattended campfires. They say it will also reduce possible exposure of firefighters to COVID-19.
Under the order, igniting, building, maintaining and using a fire is prohibited on the Coconino, Kaibab, Apache-Sitgreaves, Prescott, Tonto and Coronado national forests. The ban includes all charcoal grills and wood-burning stoves and violators could be ordered to appear in federal court and face possible fines and jail time. Stoves, grills and lanterns that use pressurized gas and have shut-off valves will still be allowed at least three feet from flammable materials.
The fire ban will be in effect until June 30, 2020 or until officials rescind it.
Most of the six national forests in Arizona remain open to visitors and dispersed camping, however many developed and managed campsites and recreation areas are closed.