On Friday, an East Verde Estates couple went for a hike off Houston Mesa Road.
The pleasant jaunt alongside the meandering East Verde River was interrupted when the couple spotted smoke floating in the air near the third crossing recreation site, eight miles north of Highway 87.
An unattended campfire had been left to smolder. Luckily, the ashes had not spread to the surrounding forest and the couple quickly snuffed the blaze and called the Forest Service for help.
Every year, Forest Service officers respond to dozens of calls for abandoned campfires, said Donald R. Nunley, Payson Ranger District fire program.
Reckless campers put whole communities at risk when they walk away from hot ashes.
In 2009, hundreds of firefighters worked days to control the 770-acre Water Wheel Fire started just opposite the popular Water Wheel Campground on Houston Mesa Road.
The fire likely sprouted from a campfire, officials said. At its peak, the fire threatened 500 homes and forced the evacuation of 700 people from Whispering Pines, Beaver Valley and Geronimo Estates.
With fire season ramping up, traditionally lasting June through July, the Forest Service offers these tips to prevent forest fires:
• Put cigarettes out in a vehicle ashtray.
• Keep vehicles off dry grass.
• Make sure campfires are dead out before
If building a campfire, consider these tips:
• Build campfires away from overhanging
branches, dry grass and leaves. Clear a
10-foot circle around the campfire.
• Keep plenty of water handy and have a
shovel for throwing dirt on the flames if the
fire gets out of control.
• Start with small sticks and add larger ones
as the fire builds. Put the largest piece of
wood on last.
• Keep the campfire small.
• Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a
small breeze can cause the fire to spread.
• When putting the fire out, drown it in
water or dirt and then stir the remains
until all embers are cool.
Currently, there are no campfire restrictions in the Tonto National Forest. Visit www.azfireinfo.com for more information.