Originally Published: May 25, 2004 7 a.m.
PRESCOTT — With the fire danger rising in recent weeks, the Prescott National Forest (PNF) will restrict campfires and smoking in its dispersed camping areas beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Forest officials will prohibit the lighting of campfires, as well as charcoal grills and stove fires, except in designated fee recreation sites that provide grills. Smoking is allowed only within enclosed buildings or vehicles.
However, the restrictions will allow pressurized liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters that meet safety specifications.
PNF will cut off campfires at designated dispersed sites, which are marked by numbered metal posts, within the Prescott Basin.
Tony Sciacca, PNF fire management officer, said rangers decided on closure because of the high winds over the past two weeks that have contributed to heightening drying conditions in the forests. He added that within the past seven days 12 campfires have been abandoned, leaving PNF even more vulnerable.
The trouble is that the fuel in the forest is extremely dry now and would go up quickly without any available moisture.
"We have a predetermined plan, and the restrictions eliminate outback starts (by humans)," Sciacca said. "Obviously we can't control Mother Nature and lightning-caused fires, but we can do something about what others do."
PNF officials will continue to monitor forest conditions and compliance with the restrictions in determining potential further actions.
At present, the regional preparedness level for fighting fires in Arizona and New Mexico stands at 3 on a scale of 1-5, with 5 representing the worst-case scenario in which the forest would have to call in federal help to extinguish fires.
To find out more about local fire restrictions and/or general fire information for any Southwestern forest, log on to the Internet at www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire or www.regionalinfo-alert.org, or call toll free at 1-877-864-6985.