By Tammy Gray
“Prior to the recent moisture we were drier than we were in 2002 just before the Rodeo-Chedeski fire,” Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Deputy Supervisor Jim Zornes told the Navajo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. “If there is no more measurable precipitation, we are probably looking at fire restrictions by Memorial Day.”
Zornes noted that rain is expected in April and May to alleviate dry conditions, but since there are no guarantees and conditions are so dry, fire management officials will begin meeting soon to monitor conditions and take action as necessary.
“Even when we get lots of moisture, May typically dries out pretty fast with the heat and the wind,” he said. “We had significant moisture last year and there is a lot of grass. That’s good for the animals, but not so good for fire management when you have windy days.”
In preparation for the upcoming fire season, the board of supervisors repealed the former outdoor fire ordinance and approved a new one to take its place. The new ordinance is based on the previous one, but specifically outlines what is and isn’t allowed during fire restrictions.
“In the last one, we told people what they could do, but we didn’t say what they couldn’t do,” Emergency Services Director Mary Springer told the board.
The ordinance outlines four separate sets of restrictions, including non-emergency fire restrictions, and stage one, two and three restrictions.
Non-emergency restrictions are in effect at all times, except when stricter restrictions are in place. For the average citizen, the only fires allowed without a permit during non-emergency restrictions include “fires used only for the cooking of food, or for providing warmth for human beings or for recreational purposes (campfires and charcoal fires); for the branding of animals; for the purpose of frost protection in farming or nursery; or for the disposal of flags pursuant to federal law.” Campfires are defined as being three feet or less in diameter, and two feet or less in height.
Further restrictions, such as those imposed in stages one, two and three, must be put in place by the board. Springer noted that the county will coordinate with other agencies, including the Forest Service and municipalities, to determine when such restrictions are necessary.
“We are trying to do this united as a group,” she explained.
Supervisor David Tenney noted that in the past there was confusion when restrictions on county lands were different than those on city lands.
New prohibitions in stage one, two and three restrictions include the use of fireworks, explosive targets and tracer round ammunition. Springer also noted that burn permits issued prior to the implementation of the restrictions are not valid.
“Burn permits are suspended during times of restriction,” she explained.
The board unanimously approved adoption of the new ordinance.
By Tammy Gray