Forest-wide Campfire Restrictions, and Area or Forest Closures (Protocol and Processes)
The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests is a cooperator of the White Mountain Fire Restrictions Coordination Group. This group also consists of Bureau of Indian Affairs, Navajo and Apache Counties, Northern AZ Fire Chiefs Association, Northern AZ Police Chiefs Association, National Park Service, and AZ Department of Forestry. Representatives from this group meet once a week or more if needed, at the beginning and throughout fire season to decide on when/if/what level of fire restrictions will be implemented. Decisions are based on a multitude of considerations such as, but not limited to: 7 day weather outlook, monthly weather outlook, availability of wildland fire resources, how many fires are occurring, and current fire danger. As soon as the group decides fire restrictions should be implemented, the public and fire managers will be notified, and the same restrictions will be implemented across the White Mountains.
Fire Restriction Stages Explained
Fire Restrictions come in different stages and become more prohibitive with each stage. Most forests begin by implementing a Stage I Restriction and if conditions worsen, Stage II is implemented. There is no "Stage III" when conditions worsen further. Instead, a forest closure is usually the next step which means the public is not allowed to enter the boundaries of the national forest due to the fire danger.
Stage I Restrictions
What is Prohibited:
- No building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal or wood stove, except in designated developed recreation sites.
- No smoking except in an enclosed vehicle or building.
- No welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame.
- No fireworks, explosives or tracer rounds are permitted on national forest lands at any time.
What is Allowed:
Petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, or heating devices providing such devices meet the fire underwriter’s specification for safety, can be turned on/off and operated in areas that are barren or cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable materials within 3 feet of the device.
- Target shooting is allowed, but not:
- In or within 150 yards from a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation area or occupied area.
- Across or on a national forest or grassland road or body of water.
- In any manner or place where any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge.
- Into or within a cave.
- Firing tracer bullets or incendiary ammunition.
- Disturbing, injuring, destroying, or in any way damaging any prehistoric, historic, or archaeological resource, structure, site, artifact, property.
- Abandoning any personal property or failing to dispose of all garbage, including targets, paper, cans, bottles, appliances.
YouTube video explanation of Stage I Fire Restrictions!
Stage II Restrictions
What is Prohibited:
The Stage II fire restrictions will prohibit the following:
- Igniting, building, maintaining, or using a fire, including charcoal and briquettes.
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least three (3) feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of any flammable material.
THE FOLLOWING ACTS ARE PROHIBITED FROM 9:00 A.M. TO 8:00 P.M.:
- Operating a generator, chainsaw or other equipment powered by an internal combustion engine for felling, bucking, skidding, processing, road building and woodcutting during industrial operations or fire wood gathering capable of igniting a fire.
- Using an explosive.
- Blasting, welding, or operating any acetylene or other torch with an open flame.
What is Allowed:
- Persons with a written Forest Service authorization specifically exempting them from the effect of this Order.
- Persons using a stove or grill that is solely fueled by pressurized liquid petroleum or pressurized liquid petroleum gas (LPG) fuels.
- Persons operating generators with an approved spark arresting device in an area that is barren or cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable materials within 3 feet of the generator.
- Any Federal, State, or local officer, or member of an organized rescue or firefighting force in the performance of official duty
Fireworks and explosives, including exploding targets, are never allowed on national forests.
YouTube video explanation of Stage II Fire Restrictions!
Some important points as to why we implement fire restrictions
- The number one reason is to protect human life, property and our natural resources. The smallest spark can turn our dry forest into a dangerous wildfire that can threaten lives and property.
- We use certain criteria to determine what stage of fire restrictions to implement, which includes current and predicted weather, how many resources we have available to fight fires, fuel moisture in the forest, fire behavior and containment challenges, as well as several others.
- Regardless of what level of fire restrictions we implement, not all fires can be prevented. Fires start from careless forest users, lightning, and inadvertent human-causes. We live in a fire-adapted ecosystem which depends on fire for its health, so it's never a question of if a wildfire will start, but when and how we will be able to respond to it.
Red Flag Warning
Red Flag Warning is a term used by fire weather forecasters to alert fire personnel and the public of potential extreme and critical fire weather due to high winds and low relative humidity. Only the National Weather Service can issue Red Flag Warnings.
Warnings are issued one 24 hour period at a time, have a beginning and end time, and are issued only when ALL the following three criteria are met:
- Wind speeds are expected to exceed 20mph.
- Relative humidity is 15% or lower.
- Fire danger rating of High, Very High, or Extreme.
To find out if it’s a Red Flag Day: Call Show Low Dispatch Center (928) 532-2700 or visit the NOAA's weather alert page.
Activities NOT recommended during a Red Flag Day include:
- Building, maintaining, or attending a fire or campfire. *Propane heating and cooking devices are permissible.
- Smoking outside a vehicle or a building.
- Vehicle use off roads or trails.
- Driving a vehicle without an approved spark arresting device.
- Operating an internal combustion engine (unless the equipment has an approved spark arresting device AND is in an area completely devoid of vegetation) i.e. chainsaws, generators, hot saws, skidders, and other recreational or industrial equipment.
- Welding, or operating an acetylene or other torch with an open flame.
If you’re not sure if it’s a Red Flag Warning Day, error on the side of caution by avoiding all prohibited activities.
Sometimes there are no fire restrictions on the national forests, but there is a Red Flag Warning in effect. In this scenario, folks would not be able to have a campfire or charcoal fire. The only scenario visitors can have fires without any prohibitions is when there is no Red Flag Warning and no fire restrictions.
It’s your responsibility to know before you go!