National forests across Arizona impose campfire restrictions amid COVID-19 outbreak

All six national forests around Arizona are imposing campfire restrictions that officials are intended to protect the health and safety of employees and communities during the coronavirus outbreak.

The restrictions announced by officials for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service took effect Tuesday and apply through June 30. That’s typically about when the summer monsoon arrives and reduces the wildfire threat.

The regional office based in Albuquerque previously imposed a similar campfire prohibition for national forests and national grasslands in New Mexico.

In Arizona, the prohibition applies to the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Coronado, Kaibab, Prescott, and Tonto national forests.

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UNITED STATES - JUNE 15: Coconino National Forest, Coconino Plateau, Arizona, United States of America. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Agency officials said in a statement they’re taking the step to prevent the drawdown of fire and medical resources to unwanted human-caused wildfires and to reduce firefighter exposure to COVID-19.

“While we know that going outside provides forest and grassland visitors needed space, exercise, and satisfaction, we are taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously,” said Elaine Kpohman, acting regional forester.

Violating the campfire restriction may result in an appearance in federal court, fines, and possible jail time.

Forest officials said most of the national forests in Arizona remain open for recreation while the restrictions are in place.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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