Originally Published: May 6, 2004 7 a.m.
It would seem impossible for anyone not to know and appreciate the level of fire danger in the Prescott National Forest.
We have seen runaway wildfires throughout the West and Arizona for the past five years. Two years ago the Indian Fire nearly got into Prescott. As it was, it destroyed seven homes.
Not only are we in the sixth year of a drought, but the forest also is full of tinder-dry dead trees from the bark beetle infestation. In short, standing anywhere in the Prescott National Forest this time of year is like standing ankle-deep in gasoline.
That would indicate to any intelligent, responsible individual that it's better not to go in the woods at all, but if one must, people at least should be careful with fire.
It's impossible, however, to account for sheer stupidity and irresponsibility. Unfortunately, the Prescott National Forest unwillingly plays host to floating methamphetamine labs and other people who are too poor to live anywhere but off the land.
That's why this past week, rangers have found 11 abandoned campfires. It's only dumb luck that one of those didn't grow to a major wildfire. The number of such fires is one of the key factors that leads to fire restrictions and forest closures.
It's a shame that we have to make some major public policies to deal with the most stupid and irresponsible people among us, but with homes and lives at stake, forest officials would be wise to err on the side of caution.