ARIZONA, USA — Wildfire season is almost upon us.
Arizona had numerous wildfires last year and, according to the Bureau of Land Management, the state is projected to have a similar season in 2020.
In an effort to lower the number of man-made fires, the Southwest Region of the Forest Service is enacting a campfire ban order throughout all of its forests, including all six Arizona National Forests.
The order includes all igniting, building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, including charcoal grills and barbecues, coal and wood-burning stoves, the forest service said in a press release. It is set to begin April 22 at 6 p.m.
Many are heading to forests looking to get outdoors as all businesses listed as "non-essential" have been closed during the global COVID-19 pandemic. While starting a campfire next to a pitched tent may be on the mind for those individuals, reducing the risk of destructive fires is the service's top priority, according to Acting Regional Forester of the Southwest Region Elaine Kohrman.
"We are providing some recreation opportunities where we can while protecting and keeping employees, the public and our communities safe from the virus and unwanted human-caused wildfires," Kohram said.
The forest service has provided an interactive map to provide more information on all other activities people can do inside the parks. It can be found here.
Those who violate the campfire ban may face fines, federal court appearances, and possible jail time, according to the forest service. Forest visitors will still be permitted to use pressurized liquid or gas devices, like stoves, grills or lanterns with shut-off valves, without any issue.
The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department will initiate its annual fire ban on May 11.
“Given the abundance of rain we’ve received this year, we had a beautiful wildflower season in the parks," said R.J. Cardin, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Director.
"As temperatures begin to rise, the parks are left with dangerous loads of dried-out brush on the ground that can ignite a wildfire with just a small spark. As a land manager, we believe implementing a fire ban at this time is the responsible thing to do to ensure visitor and park resource safety."
The fire ban includes the use of campfires, fire pits, and charcoal grills .
However, is still acceptable to use gas/propane grills in designated areas such as the semi-developed and developed camping sites.
Campfires along the shoreline at Lake Pleasant Regional Park are included in the fire ban due to higher than usual water levels and dried brush along the shoreline.