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Coconino County fire officials seeing illegal fire activity despite restrictions

Workers with the Coconino National Forest say they responded to at least 15 illegal campfires last weekend.
Published: May. 20, 2022 at 8:42 PM MST
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COCONINO COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s already been a very busy fire season, and restrictions have been put in place. But forest officials are finding some people simply aren’t following them.

This is a busy time of the year when more people are traveling, especially up to the high country, but it’s important to know what you can and can’t do when you get there. Workers with the Coconino National Forest say they responded to at least 15 illegal campfires last weekend.

Several Arizona national forests are enforcing stage one fire restrictions. This means campfires with wood or charcoal aren’t allowed outside of designated areas, and you also can’t smoke. “We have increased patrols, but especially on the weekends,” Andrew Hostad, the Fire Prevention Supervisor with the Coconino National Forest, said.

Hostad says people have been better about using propane fire pits. But some are still breaking the rules. “When I talk to people who I catch with fires, I can usually explain to them that there were at least three or four signs that they came past,” Hostad said.

“We’re entering the hottest and driest parts of our year, and people need to be aware of the risk,” Dolores Garcia with the Bureau of Land Management said. She says more restrictions are on the way and could possibly be in place by next week. This could mean limitations on target shooting or any campfires at all. “Literally all it takes is one spark,” Garcia said.

Both Garcia and Hostad are hoping people will take these restrictions seriously after seeing how quickly fires have spread this year. “Even a small fire in a densely packed area like that can have devastating consequences,” Hostad said.

There are consequences if you are caught burning a fire in restricted areas. You could be fined, spend time in jail and even face a mandatory appearance in federal court.