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Fire restrictions aim to prevent the next major blaze
Written by Christopher Fox Graham   
Friday, 07 June 2013 13:49

Schultz, Brins, La Barranca, Wallow and Rodeo-Chediski are not the newest members of the local council nor the last names of volunteers soon to be honored by a local nonprofit — they’re the names of forest fires seared into the memory of Arizona residents, pun intended.

The five fires claimed hundreds of structures and burned hundreds of thousands of acres.

The Wallow Fire was the biggest in the state’s history and burned more than 538,049 acres — about 70 percent the size of Rhode Island. The much smaller La Barranca burned 836 acres in the Village of Oak Creek.

The Brins Fire torched the top of Wilson Mountain and descended into Oak Creek Canyon, burning 4,317 acres.

News Editor Christopher Fox GrahamThose who play along Oak Creek or make the drive up State Route 89A from the Verde Valley to Flagstaff have likely noticed the denuded ridge absent of big trees where the fire threatened to jump the highway nearly seven years ago.

In recent weeks, our readers have seen an increased number of press releases from various fire agencies, towns, cities and U.S. Forest Service ranger districts announcing fire restrictions.

These fire bans are not meant to ruin people’s summer barbecue or camping trip — they exist so that someone’s overnight stay in the woods doesn’t destroy the homes of nearby residents with wildfire as an unextinguished campfire spreads into a firestorm.

When a small blaze erupts into a major named fire, dozens, hundreds or thousands of people can be evacuated. Firefighters from local agencies and Hot Shot crews from around the country spend days at a time on the fire line, costing taxpayers millions.

Millions more in private home insurance payments are spent to rebuild homes in devastated communities.

Just this weekend, the Powerhouse Fire in Southern California threatened 1,000 homes and forced the evacuation of 2,800 residents. That blaze is only 60 percent contained.

Mother Nature starts many fires, most often via lightning strikes. Those we can’t prevent, only fight.

But many wildfires are linked to people who have either set them purposely or accidently by carelessly handling flames and sparks. The first step is prevention, and that starts with us.

While fire restrictions differ, the basics are:

■ Fires, campfires, woodstove and charcoal fires are allowed only in developed campgrounds and picnic areas. Use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, and heating devices meeting safety specifications will be allowed.

■ Smoking is permitted within an enclosed vehicle or building or in a developed recreation area.

■ Fireworks are always prohibited.

This fire season, let’s do our best to make sure the only wildfire story that appears in our newspapers is how restrictions and fire-wise residents kept us safe all the way to the start of the monsoon.

 

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