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5:21 AM Wed, Nov. 21st

Fire bans return; high winds, temperatures fuel AZ blazes

Jack Kurtz/The Associated Press<br>
A smoke column off the Wallow fire hovers over people on their way to a community meeting about the fire Friday in Springerville, Ariz.

Jack Kurtz/The Associated Press<br> A smoke column off the Wallow fire hovers over people on their way to a community meeting about the fire Friday in Springerville, Ariz.

Three national forests across Arizona are reinstating seasonal fire-use restrictions.

The Coconino National Forest restrictions returned Saturday, while restrictions on the Prescott and southern Kaibab forests will follow on Wednesday.

While the Prescott National Forest hasn't seen any large fires this year, two large human-caused wildfires are burning in Arizona right now.

The Wallow wildfire burning near Alpine has forced evacuations and now ranks as the third-largest in Arizona history at 140,000 acres. The Horseshoe II fire has burned 90,000 acres in southeastern Arizona near the New Mexico border.

Firefighters surrounded an 800-acre fire on Camp Navajo west of Flagstaff Friday, a day after an unknown person ignited it.

That fire prompted the three forests in this region to go back into fire restrictions, said Jaime Gamboa, fire management officer on the Bradshaw Ranger District of the Prescott National Forest.

"We knew it was only a matter of weeks before we'd go back in," Gamboa added. "We're just preparing ourselves as conditions start to change."

A long-term Forest Service forecast is calling for warmer, dry and windy conditions in the Southwest for June, Gamboa said.

The stage I restrictions on the national forests prohibit fires outside metal grates in fee campgrounds.

No smoking is allowed outside vehicles, buildings, fee campgrounds or fee picnic areas, unless smokers clear an area three feet in diameter.

Fireworks always are illegal on federal lands.

After first instituting seasonal fire-use restrictions on May 6 on the Coconino and Kaibab and May 11 on the Prescott, the three national forests temporarily dropped fire restrictions May 20 after rain and snow fell throughout the region May 18-19. Prescott received 0.32 inches of precipitation during that event.

So far this year, Prescott's official Sundog measuring site on the northeast side of the city has preliminarily recorded 3.83 inches of precipitation, only 57.5 percent of the 113-year average of 6.66 inches.

In May, Prescott received 0.40 inches of precipitation or 85 percent of the average 0.47 inches. The average maximum temperature for the month was 3.1 degrees below average, while the average minimum was 0.7 degrees above average.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-average temperatures for the Southwest in June, with average rainfall. June historically is the driest month of the year here, with an average of only 0.39 inches of precipitation in Prescott. Monsoon rains typically arrive in July.

Wildfire potential in Yavapai County for June is normal except for the southeast corner of the county, where it is above normal, according to the U.S. Forest Service's Southwest Coordination Center. The above-normal potential covers nearly half of Arizona centered on the southeast, while it covers nearly all of New Mexico.

Various stages of fire restrictions now are in effect on all the national forests in Arizona, all state trust lands, and some U.S. Bureau of Land Management districts in Arizona.

The Apache National Forest completely closed Friday because of the Wallow Fire. The Sitgreaves and Coronado forests have entered stage II restrictions, meaning all fires and flames are banned.

All fires and flames are banned on state trust lands, too.

On many of Arizona's BLM lands including those in Yavapai County, fires are prohibited. No smoking except in vehicles or buildings. No shooting firearms except for legal hunting.

County and local fire district restrictions also remain in effect, including:

• Yavapai County (unincorporated areas outside of municipalities and fire districts) - No fires or open flames. No welding or chain saws. Barbecue grill and fire pit uses allowed as long as grills and grates have screened covers that don't allow sparks to pass through. Fireworks are banned until plentiful rains arrive.

• Central Yavapai Fire District (covering 160 square miles including Prescott Valley and rural Prescott) - No burn permits. All fires must be attended at all times. No smoking outside of yards, vehicles or designated smoking areas. Fireworks are illegal year-round.

• Prescott - No residential burn permits. No fires except at private residences, campgrounds and picnic areas where they must be monitored at all times. No smoking outside of yards, vehicles and designated areas. Fireworks are illegal year-round.

For more details about fire restrictions throughout Arizona, call 1-877-864-6985 or go online to azfireinfo.az.gov.

For details about fire restrictions in Yavapai County, go online to regionalinfo-alert.org.