Extremely dry conditions have pushed up fire season by about a month on northern Arizona’s forests. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the Flagstaff community is already taking precautions.
Tonight, the U.S. Forest Service and local law enforcement agencies will join Flagstaff citizens for a training program called Woods Watch. It teaches volunteers to identify and report illegal fire activity on local forests.
Despite warming temperatures and low humidity, no campfire or smoking restrictions are yet in place for any of northern Arizona’s forests.
Holly Krake, fire information officer on the Kaibab National Forest, says officials are keeping a close eye on conditions.
“We will be looking into campfire and smoking restrictions, probably coming up in the next two to three weeks, although, of course, that is dependent on weather and conditions on the forest,” she says.
In recent years, some Flagstaff citizen groups have called for automatic campfire and smoking bans for northern Arizona forests between May 1 and July 15. But, forest managers have been reluctant to agree to the bans. Krake says such restrictions compromise fire officials’ abilities to react to rapidly changing factors like weather and fuel moisture.
“We always want to be flexible to what we are seeing on the ground. And, what we see on the ground really impacts our decisions that we make as far as restrictions of any level.” she says.
All area national forests have coordinated their campfire and smoking bans in recent years to reduce confusion among visitors.