Campfire Restrictions Continue


Forest users face continued campfire restrictions in the Tonto National Forest and in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Pat Velasco, fire management officer with the Payson Ranger District, said Wednesday's rain did not change fire restrictions now in place in the Tonto National Forest.

The Coconino National Forest is not under any fire restrictions.

The restrictions on the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves forests place limits on where campfires are allowed, and restrict where smokers can light up.

"It's a real problem when people ignore the signs after we get a little rain," Velasco said. "They think everything is OK."

Velasco said Wednesday's rain was scattered and did not make a significant impact on the dry conditions in the forest.

"It raised the humidity and that'll help for a few days," he said. "Then we'll get our heat back and it's back to the races."

Velasco and others in Payson from the Central-Western Instant Management Team have just returned from managing the 15,000-acre Hucuvar Fire in western Arizona.

Although local fire crews are all in place, Velasco said he doesn't want to see a similar problem in the Payson area.

He warns homeowners who are working on their residences over the weekend not to burn slash. "There'll be time for that later," he said, "when the monsoons have started."

On Monday, Diamond Star Fire Department Chief Gary Hatch said an area homeowner started a fire at his residence when he was burning trash.

"It got away from him and started a brush fire," Hatch said. "He may be cited."

Hatch said his department had responded to about 15 smoldering campfires since fire restrictions were put in place May 25.

Two of the campfires started fires outside the fire circle, Hatch said, but they were quickly extinguished.

"We don't cite them," Hatch said. "Our guys have to go out and put them out, but some of the people who started the campfires were cited, I know."

Hatch said his department started patrolling camping areas May 15.

Other than the 30 smoldering campfires and one brush fire, Hatch said, "It's been pretty quiet."

However, he did say that people are not being cautious. "People go back to the Valley just leavin' their campfires smoldering."

Karen Malis-Clark, assistant public affairs officer with the Coconino National Forest, said she had a quiet Memorial Day weekend. "Boy, am I ever glad," she said.

Malis-Clark said crews responded to one fire on Saturday, two on Sunday and three on Monday, all under two acres.

"Our crews and our personnel were able to get to them right away," she said.

Dan Eckstein, assistant fire manager at the Tonto Ranger District, said fire restrictions in the Tonto National Forest will remain in place "until we get some significant rain."

In the Payson area, 40 campers have received citations for having illegal campfires since fire restrictions were put in place.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, fire crews put out a fire on a tenth of an acre on the west slope of Milk Ranch above Camp Lo Mia.

People planning to visit any of the national forests, state lands, national parks, Bureau of Land Management or tribal lands in Arizona or New Mexico can call 1-877-864-6985 toll-free for an update on fire restrictions.

Tonto National Forest Fire Restrictions

The restricted area extends from just north of Roosevelt Lake to the Mogollon Rim.

Campfires, charcoal grills and stove fires are allowed only in developed camp and picnic grounds where grills and stoves are provided. Pressurized liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters are allowed in all areas. Smoking is allowed only at developed campgrounds and recreation sites, and inside vehicles and enclosed buildings. Campfires are allowed in the restricted area in campfire rings in the following areas: Houston Mesa, Flowing Springs, East Verde, East Verde Crossing, Waterwheel, Colcord, Airplane Flat, Upper Canyon Creek, Valentine Ridge, Haigler Canyon.

Apache-Sitgreaves Fire Restrictions

Campfires are allowed only in developed campgrounds or where signs specifically allow campfires. Pressurized liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters are allowed in all areas. Smoking is allowed only in developed campgrounds and recreation sites.

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