May 092014

By Tammy Gray

Early fire restrictions that led to frustration for some citizens who had looked forward to a short season of camping and outdoor recreation without restrictions may have been proven necessary following a series of fires over the first weekend of May.

A fire in the Alpine area, dubbed the Cameron Fire, consumed a little over 300 acres before being contained, while the Patrick Pond Fire east of Forest Lakes was limited to about five acres before being brought under control.

Despite a brief rain and snowstorm, conditions remain extremely dry. Emergency Management clerk Catrina Roe noted that as of May 6, relative humidity levels are at about eight percent, resulting in critical fire weather. Red flag warnings have been in effect most of the week.

Residents are reminded that stage one emergency fire restrictions are in effect for all of Navajo County, and sheriff’s deputies will be on the lookout for illegal fires.

Under stage one restrictions, there are five specifically prohibited acts, including the building of campfires, unless the campfire is “in an area that is designated for that purpose, and is barren or cleared of all debris;” smoking outside of an enclosed vehicle or building; use of any fireworks; use of explosive targets; and use of tracer round ammunition. Devices fueled by petroleum or propane, such as gas grills, are allowed as long as the device is used in an area that has been cleared of flammable materials.

Emergency Services Director Mary Springer previously explained that windy weather and lack of winter moisture have combined to create perfect conditions for uncontrollable wildfires. She noted that there was not enough spring run-off to “green up” trees and grasses this year, and combined with dry vegetation from last year and high spring winds, it won’t take much to ignite a massive fire.

“Everything is so dry. Anything that has a spark can start a fire,” she noted.