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12:40 PM Fri, Sept. 21st

Prescott Forest ramps up fire restrictions

The Prescott Fire Center has a crew of 11 smokejumpers normally 
stationed in Silver City, N.M., pre-positioned here for extra precautions due to the extreme fire 
danger. Crewmember Matt Smith and the others all have more than seven years jumping onto fires and can respond to any fire within about 320 miles of Prescott within two hours.
The Daily Courier/
Les Stukenberg

The Prescott Fire Center has a crew of 11 smokejumpers normally stationed in Silver City, N.M., pre-positioned here for extra precautions due to the extreme fire danger. Crewmember Matt Smith and the others all have more than seven years jumping onto fires and can respond to any fire within about 320 miles of Prescott within two hours. The Daily Courier/ Les Stukenberg

PRESCOTT - Prescott National Forest officials will increase seasonal fire-use restrictions

Wednesday.

The rate of illegal fires is less than average for this time of year, forest

officials said.

However, the Energy Release Component (fire danger level) is greater than average for this time of year and even setting intermittent daily records, Prescott National Forest Fire Management Officer Curtis Heaton said.

"It's almost on track with 1996, which is the driest year we're aware of,"

Heaton said. And forecasters don't see any precipitation coming for at least the next few weeks, he said.

The National Weather Service is calling for temperatures in the 90s for the coming week, reaching

97 by Friday.

New regulations that come with the stage II restrictions Wednesday include a prohibition against all motorized vehicles on all forest trails and off-highway vehicle staging areas, such as Alto Pit. This national forest always prohibits motorized travel off roads and trails.

Also new is a complete prohibition of all fires and smoking in the entire Horsethief Basin area next to Crown King, about 30 miles south of Prescott.

Prescott Forest officials will prohibit welding and other torches, as well as chainsaws and other machinery with internal combustion engines, throughout the forest.

Stage I fire restrictions have been in effect on the Prescott National Forest since May 23.

They already prohibit any open flames outside of developed recreation sites (named campgrounds and day-use areas). The restrictions prohibit campfires, tiki lights and candles outside of campgrounds.

Forest officials also have banned smoking unless people are in vehicles, buildings or developed recreation sites.

The fire ban includes all of the approximately 115 dispersed campsites in the Prescott Basin that are marked with numbers but are not part of a campground.

Local fire departments, the state, and U.S. Bureau of Land Management also have fire-use restrictions in effect on private and public lands until monsoon rains bring plentiful moisture.

More information about Prescott National Forest fire restrictions or wildfires is available by calling 777-5799.

For details about various fire restrictions throughout the state, people may call 877-864-6985 or see the Internet at www.azfireinfo.com.

Details about Prescott fire restrictions are on the city web site at cityofprescott.net/services/fire/.

So far this fire season, the Prescott National Forest has found 130 abandoned or illegal campfires, and 27 of them had escaped their fire rings, Heaton said.

Forest firefighters' biggest scare so far this year was the Sportsmen's Fire because it ignited so close to Prescott-area homes, but Prescott Fire Department firefighters arrived quickly and stopped that blaze at

1.5 acres.

The U.S. Forest Service uses four stages of fire restrictions. At stage four, it closes the forest to all human uses.

Right now the Prescott National Forest's Prescott Fire Center has plentiful ground and aerial resources, Heaton said, including a heavy air tanker, a small and large helicopter, and 11 smokejumpers with their plane.

Arizona has more federal firefighting resources than usual lately because New Mexico had such a wet winter compared to Arizona.

Contact the reporter at

jdodder@prescottaz.com