brush fire

Pine-Strawberry is under Stage 1 fire restrictions. Fire officials hope to prevent brush fires like this one, which occurred in January.

Because of a new fire code passed on April 15, Pine-Strawberry Fire Department firefighters can now issue a citation for those in violation of fire restrictions.

“We are not cops we are educators,” said Pine-Strawberry Fire Department Fire Marshal Rick Barnes. “We try to solve a problem with minimal intrusion, we will educate and warn first.”

Violations are a Class 3 misdemeanor. If cited a person can face up to a $500 fine or 30 days in jail. Barnes’ goal is to avoid issuing citations.

The vast majority of concerned calls come from and about guests and visitors using an Airbnb, VRBO or family cabin, Barnes said.

Folks that may not have an awareness of the dangers that face a mountain community dealing with dryer than normal conditions are often in the dark about fire restrictions.

Barnes is asking for our help.

If you own or work for a vacation home, go to pinestrawberryfiredistrict.com and print out the current restrictions and be sure they are posted and available to your guests.

If you meet a new neighbor or weekend guest, share the information kindly, added Barnes. PSFD is happy to be called, but let’s be sure there is a problem as propane and charcoal grills are still allowed under current fire restrictions.

Education is the first step, said Barnes. Post this on your social media and talk to the people you meet this summer.

“We don’t want to write tickets, we want to educate,” said Barnes.

The Tonto National Forest has also entered Stage 1 restrictions as of 8 a.m. Friday. For more information on those restrictions, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/tonto.

Here are the rules under the current restrictions:

Any wood fires outdoors are prohibited. Smoking outside within 5 feet of combustible materials is prohibited.

Using charcoal in a barbecue with a close-able top, propane devices, electric devices, and pellet smokers are allowed with 10 feet of separation from combustible materials. Ashes MUST be disposed of properly in a non-combustible (i.e. metal, ceramic) container with 10 feet (two if covered) of separation from combustible materials.

Please note that if the Tonto National Forest enters Stage 2 restrictions, Gila County will enter fire restrictions too. Their ordinance makes no exception for the use of charcoal or smokers. Once they enter restrictions, only gas or electric appliances can be used.

Weed eaters, chain saws, and mowers may be used. They must have a spark arrestor, and a water source or fire extinguisher must be present. A fire watch should be performed for 30 minutes after work is finished. The fire department is not requiring permits for these devices.

A more complete list of what is and is not allowed is posted in multiple locations throughout the fire district. This list is also available at both stations. Finally, the list and the fire code can be viewed at pinestrawberryfiredistrict.com.

What always requires a permit, regardless of fire restrictions:

Open burning (brush, leaves, pine needles, etc.). Bonfires (ceremonial fires larger than three feet in area and two feet in height) always require a permit. Neither bonfires nor open burning are permitted when winds are forecast in excess of 10 mph, regardless of fire restrictions. Burning of trash is always prohibited.

Hot work (cutting, welding, and other similar flame, spark, or fire producing activity) requires a permit.

PSFD permits are free, but require an inspection to ensure safety. Call 928-476-4272 to get a permit for open burning or hot work.

What you cannot do under fire restrictions:

You cannot build or maintain a recreational fire. Recreational fires include ceremonial, recreational, warming, and cooking fires (other than those described above).

Regardless of fire restrictions, recreational fires must always be more than 25 feet from combustible materials.

Open burning and bonfires are not allowed under fire restrictions.

Although violations of the Pine-Strawberry Fire District Fire Code are a class 3 misdemeanor (with potential penalties of up to $500 or 30 days incarceration), it is our philosophy that we want to keep our community safe through education, education, and more education, with enforcement as an absolute last resort. Please help us keep you, your neighbors, and your property safe by being smart with fire.

Call 928-476-4272 or visit pinestrawberryfiredistrict.com to find out if we are in restrictions.

Crafternoon at Pine library

Adults and teens in the Pine and Strawberry area are invited to a Crafternoon at the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library at 1 p.m., Friday, May 14. The project is making a Hobbit Wreath. The event is free and takes place in the library activity room.

To sign up visit the library at 6124 W. Randall Place or email peagan.ihp@gmail.com.

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