Campfire Restrictions Implementation

Fire Danger & Management | Campfire Restrictions Implementation

 

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Image of documentThough the majority of wildfires across the nation are human-caused, it might surprise one to know that the majority of wildfires on the Coconino National Forest are not. Taking into account the fire history since 1970 through 2017, 63% of all the wildfires on Coconino National Forest are lightning-caused. This is not to make light of the national statistics, but is an interesting point since this National Forest has one of the highest lightning-strike numbers in the nation.  In fact, since 1970, there have only been 5 years when human-caused wildfires outnumbered lightning-caused wildfires: 1979, 1993, 1995, 2009, and 2017. Click here or on the document image for some interesting statistics.

 


 

Fire Restriction and Red Flag Event Protocols

The Coconino National Forest uses the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) to assist in determining Preparedness Levels and when Campfire and Smoking restrictions may be implemented. Using this tool helps Fire Managers to identify critical times when fires can become difficult to control.

Campfire and Smoking restriction discussions between adjacent National Forests, National Parks, State Agencies and the National Weather Service generally begins in mid-April depending on forest conditions and weather forecasts. A review of operating plans, weather trends and forest conditions defines when the need for fire restrictions will be applied. These key questions and weather parameters are addressed during these discussions and are defined in the following narrative.

1. What is the predicted fire potential for the next several weeks?

  • Is the Southwest Area 7 Day Significant Potential outlook showing “Very Dry” or more than one “High Risk” day per week?
  • Is the Southwest Area Monthly Outlook showing “Above Normal” Significant Fire Potential over or near the units under consideration?

2. Is there an increase in number of fire starts? (Human vs. Natural)

3. What is the daily fire occurrence situation?

  • Are there multiple starts?
  • Are fire occurrences and associated control problems increasing or decreasing?

4. Are adequate fire resources available by Agency or Zone?

5. Are severity resources or funds requested/approved for local or zone agencies?

6. Is there an increase/decrease in recreational visitor days, e.g., holidays and special events expected?

7. Are social, political, or economics impacts expected?

8. Are there preparations for the next phase, whether that would be a higher level of restrictions, closures, or rescissions of an order?

9. Have you contacted the following individuals concerning area fire restrictions?

  • Fire Prevention Officers
  • Public Affairs/Public Information Officers
  • Law Enforcement/Special Agents
  • Agency Administrators|
  • Zone Partners

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Restrictions and Closures

The Forest Supervisor retains the authority to issue campfire/smoking and chainsaw restrictions and will recommend issuance of area closures to the Regional Forester when conditions warrant. Examples of fire restriction and closure orders are included in the Restriction and Closure Toolbox available for use by the Forest. Districts should make recommendations or requests for restrictions and closures at least five working days prior to the recommended execution date.

Restrictions and closures will be coordinated with all adjacent Forests (Kaibab, Tonto, Prescott, and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests). Coordination will also occur with State, County, and local cooperators. Conference calls between all of these agencies will occur when conditions warrant.

Restriction and Closure Criteria
The Forest uses restrictions and closures as an aid in wildland fire prevention. Implementation normally occurs in four stages based upon the Fire Preparedness Level, current fire occurrence, and projected fire season duration and severity.

The usual order will be:

A. Smoking and Campfire Restrictions
B. Power Saw Restrictions and Industrial Fire Plan "C" (Hoot Owl)
C. Area Closures
D. Forest Closure

A. Smoking and Campfire Restrictions
Smoking and Campfire Restrictions limit smoking and building of open fires to designated areas. Criteria for implementing Smoking and Campfire Restrictions are:

1. The Coconino NF is in Fire Preparedness Level III or higher.

2. The following weather and fuel conditions exist and are expected to continue: (based on readings from the weather station at Flagstaff Airport, some of which can be found online at www.tinyurl.com/FlagstaffWS)

  • Temperature >70 by 1300 hours weather observation
  • Relative humidity <30% by 1300 hours weather observation
  • Fine fuel moisture < 5% by 1300 hours weather observation
  • 10 hour fuel moisture <8% by 1300 hours weather observation
  • 1000 hour fuel moisture <10% by 1300 hours weather observation

3. The following field conditions exist and are expected to continue:

  • Fires that start are beginning to spot.
  • There are increasing numbers of people using the Forest.
  • The Forest may experience numerous fire starts on a given day.
  • There is highly flammable slash adjacent to high use areas.

4. The following coordination will be completed:

  • The District Ranger(s) and the Forest Fire Staff will consult when either feels the criterion for implementing Smoking and Campfire Restrictions has been reached on a Ranger District.
  • If the District Ranger(s) and Forest Fire Staff agree that the restrictions should be implemented, the Forest Fire Staff will call and coordinate the application of the restrictions on the Forest with other District Rangers and adjacent Forests.
  • The Forest Fire Staff will notify the Forest Supervisor of the need for implementation of the restrictions.
  • The Forest Fire Staff will coordinate the implementation of restrictions with adjacent Forests and cooperators.

When all coordination has been completed, the Forest Supervisor will sign an order implementing the restrictions on the Forest. The Public Affairs Office will issue a news release informing the public and the Dispatch Center will notify the Districts.

For more information, see

B. Power saw Restrictions and Industrial Fire Plan C (Hoot Owl)
The Power saw Order limits the use of power saws during critical fire danger days.
The Hoot Owl shift is a very effective prevention tool because it allows industrial woods operations during early morning hours when temperatures are down and relative humidity is higher.
Hoot Owl is the implementation of Industrial fire Plan "C" and can be declared by the Forest Supervisor in Preparedness Level IV and above. Some additional criteria for implementation of power saw restriction and Hoot Owl shifts are:

1. The Coconino NF is in Preparedness Level IV or higher.

2. The following weather and fuel conditions exist and are expected to continue:

a. Temperature >75 degrees by 1300 hours weather observation
b. Relative humidity <25% by 1300 hours weather observation
c. Fine fuel moisture <4% by 1300 hours weather observation
d. 10 hour fuel moisture <7% by 1300 hours weather observation
e. 1000 hour fuel moisture <9% by 1300 hours weather observation

3. The following coordination will be completed:

  • The District Ranger(s) and Forest Fire Staff will consult when either feels the criteria for implementing the power saw restrictions and Hoot Owl shift have been reached on the Ranger District.
  • If the District Ranger(s) and Forest Fire Staff agree that power saw restrictions and Hoot Owl shift should be implemented, the Forest Fire Staff will call and coordinate with the other District Ranger and adjacent Forests.
  • When all coordination has been completed, the Forest Supervisor will sign an order implementing the power saw restrictions. The Public Affairs Officer will issue a media release and the Dispatch Center will notify the Districts.

4. Hoot Owl shift (Plan "C" Industrial Fire Plan) will be implemented for all industrial operations including commercial fuel wood sales except timber sale contracts 2400-3 and 2400-6. These two sale contracts have specific contract clauses that deal with Industrial Fire Plan based on Energy Release Component.

Special Permits or Waivers for Restrictions, and Hoot Owl Shift
District Rangers are delegated authority to grant special permits or waivers for smoking and campfire restrictions, power saw restrictions, and hoot owl shifts in writing on a case by case basis. This authority may not be re-delegated.

C. & D.  Area or Forest Closures

There are two types of closures for the Forest:

1. Area Closure:
A specific area of the Forest is closed to public entry due to the risk of a wildfire starting with the potential of causing severe damage.

2. Forest Closure:
This is rare and used only when severe fire conditions exist, there are multiple large fires on the Forest or in the Region, and nearly all suppression forces available to the Region are committed to going fires. Closures are an important fire prevention tool. They will be implemented whenever needed to help prevent large fires and their accompanying damage and high suppression costs.

Some additional criteria for implementing Area Closures are:

1. The Coconino NF is in Fire Preparedness Level IV or higher.

2. The following weather and fuel conditions exist and are expected to continue:

  • Temperature >75 degrees by 1300 hour weather observations
  • Relative humidity <10% by 1300 hour weather observations
  • Fine fuel moisture <3% by 1300 hour weather observations
  • 10 hour fuel moisture <6% by 1300 hour weather observations
  • 1000 hour fuel moisture <8% by 1300 hour weather observations

3. The following coordination will be completed:

  • The District Ranger(s) and the Fire Staff will consult when either feels the criteria for implementing an Area Closure have been reached within a specified area.
  • If the District Ranger(s) and the Forest Fire Staff agree that an Area Closure should be implemented, the Forest Fire Staff coordinates the application with all Rangers involved, adjacent Forests, and cooperators.
  • The Forest Fire Staff notifies the Forest Supervisor of the need for implementation of the Area Closure.

4. When all coordination has been completed, the Forest Administrative Officer will send the Area Closure Notice to the Regional Forester for approval prior to signing by the Forest Supervisors.
The criteria for implementing a Forest Closure include:

  • The Coconino National Forest is in Preparedness Level V.
  • Fuel and weather conditions are the same as for an Area Closure.
  • Nearly all fire suppression forces available to the Region are committed to going fires.
  • Coordination and implementation actions are the same for Area Closures with the addition of implementation of "Plan D" in the Industrial Fire Plan level.
  • Approval for a Forest Closure is the same as for an Area Closure and rests at the Regional Forester level.

Special Permits or Waivers for Area/Forest Closures
District Rangers are delegated authority to grant special permits or waivers for closures in writing on an individual case basis. Special requirements will normally be a part of any permit or waiver. The District Ranger must be sure that granting an entry permit or waiver does not cause an excessive risk of wildfire and it is in the best interest of the Forest to grant such a waiver or permit. The District Ranger may not re-delegate this authority.

Rescission of Restriction and Closure Orders
The same level of coordination between Districts, adjacent Forests, and the Forest Fire Staff should occur when deciding to rescind any signed orders. A general guideline is that 2/3 of the Area Closure/Forest Closure must receive 1/10th" of rain prior to rescinding a closure and 1/2" of rain prior to rescinding Smoking and Campfire Restrictions. The rescission order is signed by the Forest Supervisor. The Public Affairs office will notify the media and the Dispatch Center will notify the Districts.

 

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Red Flag Events

A “Red Flag Event” by description, is a combination of environmental factors that by negative influence, can lead to extreme wildland fire behavior with potential for unmanageable results. The evaluation process consists of assessing unusually low relative humidities and fuel moistures, combined with above normal temperatures and sustained high winds of 25 MPH or greater during preparedness level 3 or above. At the onset of predicted critical fire weather, a methodical procedure of advisories and warnings are implemented and disseminated widely, both to the public and within the agency, emphasizing extreme fire danger and very high potential for an unwanted major wildfire occurrence. Preventive measures are typically enacted at this time. A collaborative decision between Federal and State land managers and the National Weather Service usually dictate when these conditions arise.

Red Flag Events are categorized in the following order:

• Fire Weather WATCH is issued to alert the possibility of the development of the above described conditions that (with reasonable confidence) will likely occur in the near future.

• Red Flag WARNING is issued to warn of a predicted, impending or ongoing event that will meet the criteria of a Red Flag Alert within the next 24 hour period. This warning will generally preceed a full alert.

• Red Flag ALERT is the most critical stage and implemented when conditions are extreme. It is the responsibility of the Forest Supervisor to initiate and commence any specific actions deemed necessary. All Red Flag Advisories are broadcast by the Flagstaff Dispatch Center on the daily Fire Weather Forecast.

When a Red Flag Alert is issued, the District Rangers and/or Fire Duty Officers will implement any or all of the following actions at his or her discretion.

1. Local district fire resources will be moved and staged in strategic locations for initial attack.

2. The forest fire dozers (when available) will be loaded on the transport and placed on “stand by” for immediate available dispatch.

3. All Prevention Patrol personnel will increase area patrols and public contacts particularly in high volume visitor areas.

4. Industrial contractors within the district are subject to shut down operations for short periods during such alerts.

5. All surrounding cooperating agencies will be notified of any implemented plans affecting public use and camp fires are not recommended.

6. Front line office personnel will advise visitors of current and expected conditions and any temporary restrictions that apply.

7. Any qualified district employees can and may be used for support of fire management activities as needed.

8. Notify District and Forest Level Public Information Officers and have PIO’s notify local media that camp fires are not recommended.

 

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Additional Resources and Information

Coconino National Forest Information

 

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