With the U.S. Forest Service and Gila County, the Pine-Strawberry Fire District is banning open fires in town. The order took effect on Wednesday, April 22.
The Forest Service has banned open flame on all six national forests in Arizona until June 30, or until rescinded. Violating the campfire ban may result in a fine or jail time.
“We know it is not dry out there,” said PSFD engineer Stacy Figueroa. “Usually fire restrictions only start because it gets so dry that fire starts easily, gets very large and threatens our communities. Lush, green forests are not normally restricted — it’s a people problem.”
Because of the quarantine, resources from around the country to battle wildfires are not available. Fighting an errant forest fire started by humans takes manpower, and there is just not enough PSFD personnel to battle a wildland fire and maintain first response to the community.
Burn permits are rescinded and will not be issued, said Figueroa, but the free brush pit off of Control Road will remain open on weekends.
At home and in the forest, folks will still be able to use pressurized liquid or gas devices (stoves, grills or lanterns) with shut-off valves in an area at least three feet from any flammable materials. While these restrictions are in place, the six national forests in Arizona are still open, and dispersed camping — outside of developed campsites — and other recreation opportunities are available.
Visit the Interactive Visitor Map at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ivm for more information on activities. Information on public lands use in Arizona is available at https://tourism.az.gov/responsible-recreation-across-arizona/.
“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,” said Acting Regional Forester Elaine Kohrman. “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.”
PSFD personnel have been responding in masks and gloves to calls, and this has concerned some community members. This is for first responder and patient safety. Personal protection equipment (PPE) has become an important part of every firefighters day, said Figueroa.
Masks and gloves are currently a requirement. When crews respond in masks and gloves, it doesn’t mean they are sick. If they come to your home, even for a cat stuck in a tree, they will be in masks and gloves.
“If we respond to a person who fell, or a car accident, we are showing up like this,” Figueroa explained in a video posted on her Facebook page.
“We sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher,” she chuckled in the video. “It’s hard for some of our patients to hear us and/or understand us through this mask.”
Communication can be frustrating and even intimidating with PPEs in place.
“This is new for us too. We want you to be comfortable and tell us if this is a problem,” said Figueroa. “We are getting used to this too.”
Some kind folks have offered to pay, and so far the ladies have refused, but one very generous mask recipient donated to a charity of their choice to say thank you for a mask they could not find.
“I just received a $500 donation to our food bank for four masks — wow!,” said Sam Sibley, who is making masks with her friends.
The masks are still free and they will continue to make them. If you can make a donation to a local charity in gratitude for the mask, the ladies say thank you.
Sibley, Heidi Hess and Linda Masucci are still sewing and have distributed more than 600 masks.
“If even one person is saved from all this effort, then it will be worth it,” said Hess.
All three have a Facebook page. Reach them there if you would like a mask. You can also reach out to me email@example.com and I can hook you up with the trend in facial wear.