By Tammy Gray
High winds and increasingly dry conditions led Navajo County officials to impose stage two emergency fire restrictions, or moderate restrictions, in all unincorporated areas of the county, effective May 23. The county was already under stage one fire restrictions.
Previously allowed activities, such as campfires in developed campgrounds, are now prohibited. Sheriff KC Clark has noted that deputies will be watching specifically for unauthorized burning and strictly enforcing the fire restrictions in order to reduce the risk of a major wildfire.
Acts prohibited under stage two restrictions include any type of fire, campfire, charcoal or wood stove; smoking outdoors; operating any machine that produces open flames or sparks; welding or using any sort of torch with an open flame; off-road driving; fireworks; explosives; and tracer round ammunition.
There are some exceptions to the restrictions, mainly in developed areas. For example, welding is allowed in developed areas devoid of vegetation, and common yard machines may be used in landscaped areas as long as they have spark arrestors. Devices fueled by liquid petroleum may also be used, as long as all vegetation is cleared in a three-foot radius from the device, including the area above it. County officials note, however, that even though an action is exempt an individual can still be held liable if his or her actions cause a wildfire.
In enacting the stage two restrictions, District IV County Supervisor David Tenney noted, “We need people to obey the law. We still want our visitors and residents to enjoy every other part of their experience in our region, but we just can’t let anything get away from us this year. Even one preventable fire event is one too many in the current conditions we are under, and I am glad that Navajo County Sheriff KC Clark and other law enforcement officials are operating under a zero tolerance policy for unlawful fire use.”
Several relatively small fires have already threatened forests in and near Navajo County. On May 21, the Woods Canyon Fire near Payson burned approximately 88 acres before being partially contained. It was started by an illegal campfire. To the west, the Slide Fire continues to burn in Oak Creek Canyon. As of press time, the fire had consumed more than 7,500 acres and was only five percent contained. The Slide Fire is also believed to have been human-caused.