Arizona public land agencies begin implementing fire restrictions

State and federal public land management agencies in Arizona are beginning to impose fire restrictions due to hot and dry weather conditions across the state and an increase in fire starts caused by people.

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in eastern Arizona announced campfire and smoking restrictions take effect on May 7. The forests’ restrictions include allowing campfires only in designated campgrounds and picnic areas and only in metal grills or metal fire pits provided by the Forest Service.

In the same region, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Management announced it is prohibiting campfires and implementing other so-called Stage One restrictions beginning Friday on land owned and managed by the state in Apache and Navajo counties.

So far this year, there has been more than 350 wildfires that's burned more 20,000 acres across the state - and most of them are human-caused.

Dolores Garcia with the Bureau of Land Management says its typical to have fire restrictions in place for western and central Arizona around this time, however, it's a bit early for other regions.

"It is a little but early for some of the higher mountain country like Navajo and Apache counties…[it] usually goes in just a little bit later because, again, they typically have cooler temperatures, higher moisture," Garcia said.

There hasn't been much rain, temperatures have been warm, and it's been windy - all factors that increase fire danger.

"We need to really make sure that people are really being aware of the conditions around them, doing what they can to prevent wildfires," Garcia said.

People should always check for fire restrictions before heading out. Watch for any outdoor activities that can easily spark a fire.

"If you live next to any dry vegetation - whether it’s in the desert or in the high country in the mountains - now is the time to be prepared and to do that work in and around your home to clear that vegetation and to make your home more defensible," Garcia said.

Fire officials always plan for the worst, but hope for the best, she said.

"We keep our staffing high, we keep our alerts high, we try to operate as safely as possible," Garcia said. "But the public is a big factor in that, and those human-caused starts play a big factor in how successful we all are here in Arizona."

Lands covered by the state agency’s restrictions include state parks, state trust lands and wildlife areas outside incorporated municipalities.

"Even with recent moisture in the area, dry conditions linger and fire activity continues to increase. We need to be proactive and current conditions in the White Mountains region warrant implementation of restrictions at this time," said Fire Management Officer John Truett. "Fire restrictions provide another layer of safety to the public and our wildland firefighters."

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