Tag Archives: Forest Fires

Happy Birthday, Smokey Bear!

Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

Seventy years ago today, the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council settled on a mascot for their fire-prevention efforts. On August 9, 1944, Smokey Bear was born.

A few things you might not know about Smokey:

  • Smokey’s famous slogan, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires,” was adopted in 1947. Today, it’s the more inclusive “Only YOU can prevent wildfires.”
  • His proper name is Smokey Bear, not Smokey the Bear. The “the” was added by songwriters to help with the rhythm of Smokey’s song.
  • Before Smokey came along, Disney loaned the Bambi character to the Forest Service for use as a fire-prevention spokesman.

To celebrate Smokey turning 70, why not take his pledge to be smart in the outdoors and do your part to avoid starting wildfires? We think he’d appreciate it.

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Q&A With Don Muise About Forest Fires and Why They Keep Happening

Valerie Millett | Coconino National Forest

Valerie Millett | Coconino National Forest

The number of acres burned in the Coconino National Forest has more than doubled from last year, according to Don Muise, the forest aviation and fire staff officer for the forest. Between January 1 and April 30 of last year, there were 16 fires, all human-caused. So far in 2014, 23 fires have occurred, and all but one were human caused. Muise spoke to us about what fire restrictions are in place to protect the national forest and why more fires are occurring this year.

What current restrictions are in effect?
We’re in what we call Stage 1 restrictions, and what that entails is fire, campfire, charcoal or coal-stove use is restricted except in a valid recreation site. The other thing that is prohibited is smoking, except within a closed vehicle, building or developed recreation site.

How are restrictions decided?
We try not to impose bans on fires just haphazardly; we have indicators that we use to tell us when conditions are such that we should do that. The fire restrictions that we use in the forest are a staged restriction plan, starting from the Stage 1 restriction all the way to Stage 4, which is a full forest closure. That’s a very difficult situation, closing off 1.8 million acres to folks who want to recreate on the national forest.

Is it normal to have restrictions early in the season?
We’re a little earlier than normal; last year we didn’t impose Stage 1 restrictions until about May 17, but because of the lack of snowpack this year and the dry conditions, it really forced us to start using restrictions as a prevention tool to prevent further starts. What we were seeing was the fires that we were getting — most of them human-caused — were getting up and running on us and making it difficult. What we call the “resistance to control” was getting tougher and tougher.

What preventative measures can visitors take to protect the forest?
It’s too bad that a few folks will ruin it for the many, because we get tons of visitors up here, and part of their enhanced recreation experience is having a campfire, and I can understand that. What happens, though, is there are some people that don’t understand or don’t care and won’t thoroughly put out their fire. They’ll just drive away and let it burn, and then the wind comes up and blows it around or it gets out of the containment. Our big pitch to folks is, when you can have campfires, make sure they’re completely out and completely cool to the touch.

What other information should visitors be aware of?
There are a lot of things that can and will start fires in the forest, including generators, chain saws, and motorcycles and ATVs without proper spark arrestors on their mufflers. So just be very aware that if they want the forest there to enjoy, then they’ve got to help us prevent the starts that could happen from any of those things.

—Kirsten Kraklio

 

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Filed under Eco Issues, In the Area, Mother Nature

Brown Fire Burning Near Ramsey Canyon

Photo by Kelly Kramer

Photo by Kelly Kramer

As temperatures warm up, we know it’s only a matter of time before a wildfire breaks out. The latest blaze, the Brown Fire, is located in Southern Arizona near Ramsey Canyon. Winds are expected to kick up today, and residents in the area have already received pre-evacuation notices. As of yesterday, the fire had burned 366 acres and containment was at zero percent. According to the Incident Information System, hotshot crews were on site yesterday constructing fire lines while firefighters scouted contingency lines. Air tankers and helicopters dropped water and fire retardant to minimize the spread. Today, crews will be back out in the area. AZCentral.com reported that the fire is still under investigation but likely was human-caused.

For more information about the Brown Fire, call 520-439-2333 or 800-288-3861. The call center will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In the meantime, four of Arizona’s national forests — the Coconino, Kaibab, Prescott and Tonto — have issued fire restrictions. Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart told the Arizona Daily Sun, “We are seeing conditions on the forests that warrant going into fire restrictions earlier than usual. … We could have a long fire season ahead of us, and we need members of the public to work with us to prevent human-caused starts.”

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Just a Friendly Reminder from Your Friends at Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

Image courtesy of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, near Beaver Creek

Summer hasn’t officially arrived, but, boy, it certainly feels like it…….. So, if you’re planning on skipping town soon and heading to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests for some much cooler weather, we thought we’d pass along a friendly reminder from our friends there…..

And FYI, to learn more about forest fires, fire policy and the Wallow Fire, pick up the June issue of Arizona Highways — let’s just say, it’s eye-opening and heart-breaking.

***

The Apache-Sitgreaves National forests are busy preparing for the upcoming summer recreation season. Trails, roads, recreations areas and campsites have been assessed and work has been ongoing in preparation for the arrival of campers and outdoor enthusiasts. The stocking of fish to forest streams and lakes will begin in a few weeks. Some roads and highways are due to open as soon as next week.

The areas affected by the Wallow Fire last summer are already recovering and the Forest Service has cleared hazard trees from 289 miles of roads and aerial mulched and seeded 90,000 acres. Most of the most popular areas in the Wallow Fire perimeter were not damaged by the fire. The Apache-Sitgreaves Forests would like to welcome everyone back to the forest and has a few tips to help everyone have a safe and enjoyable experience.

  • Look up, look down, look all around.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not camp near weakened trees that have dead limbs or have been burned and could fall into your campsite.
  • Do not camp in low lying areas that may be prone to flooding during a rainstorm.
  • Do keep your food stored away from your immediate camping area such as a car trunk so as not to encourage bears.
  • When hiking stay on established trails and let someone know where you are going and when you will return.

Be especially cautious with fire and be aware of fire conditions and restrictions. Fire restrictions vary but most mean that no open fires are allowed except in established campgrounds with fire grills or pits. Some areas have prohibited all fires except gas or propane campstoves, some restrict all types of flame. You can check the current fire restrictions by calling 1-877-864-6985. Or you can check the restrictions by forest district by going to our website or calling (928) 333-4301.

Fire restrictions are often imposed in the dry months of May through early July on the forest. Because of winds, drought and high temperatures Arizona’s forests are particularly dry this year so please, be especially cautious with fire this year. NEVER LEAVE YOUR FIRE UNATTENDED AND STAY WITH IT UNTIL IT IS OUT COLD. For more campfire prevention tips go to http://www.smokeybear.com

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A Burning Issue… An Excerpt from the June Issue of Arizona Highways

Arizona Highways, June 2012

Last year, I watched the Wallow Fire burn firsthand, and I interviewed firefighters, foresters and fire-policy experts as part of my research for an article, A Burning Issue, which appears in this month’s edition of Arizona Highways. Arizona’s wildfire season has already begun, as you’ve seen from news coverage of the multiple fires that firefighters are battling as I write this. We’ll continue to monitor Arizona’s fire season, and I encourage you to do the same. The following excerpt from A Burning Issue reveals a bit of the debate over prescribed burns and other methods of fire management.

What’s your take on Arizona’s fire policy? Share your thoughts in the comment section below this post, or write us a note via Facebook or Twitter.

Timber sales. Owls. Road density. Prescribed burns. Public lands versus wild lands. Risk to firefighters. All of these and more are cogs in the fire-policy wheel, a slowly turning circle that won’t stop spinning anytime soon.

Prescribed burns became part and parcel of forest-health policies decades ago. Nevertheless, they’re a major sticking point in the debate.

“The American fire community accepted the need to reinstate fire a long time ago,” says Dr. Stephen Pyne, a Regents’ professor at Arizona State University and author of several books on national fire policy. “Prescribed burns, slashing and burning — those aren’t new controversies. The problem is making things happen on the ground. The whole point of national fire policy on federal lands over the past 40 years has been to increase the amount of burning. We’re getting it, so what’s the problem? People aren’t getting it the way they want.”

And that’s where identity politics come into play. Pyne contends that the issue has really been between certain categories of the business community and the politicians who represent them — those who want purely wild landscapes and those who want landscapes where people can work and live.

— Kelly Kramer, Managing Editor

To read the complete story, pick up a copy of the June issue of Arizona Highways, on newsstands now, or subscribe at www.arizonahighways.com.

 

 

 

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Protect Our State… Help Keep History From Repeating Itself

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In Her Own Words…
I can tell you that for the folks who were affected by Rodeo-Chediski in 2002, this fire is bringing back many painful memories for people… the anxiety about whether your community will be affected, the feeling of helplessness if you are forced to evacuate, and the desperation to know whether your community or property was spared or burned; and watching the news in hopes of seeing your property, and hoping that it is still standing.

We were at our cabin this past weekend (June 3-4) and I decided to ride over to the Eagar/Greer area to take pictures (I enjoy photography). In Eagar, it was pretty much like “business as usual,” just a lot of smoke in the air. Greer was under pre-evacuation orders and most of the cabins already seemed to be empty by the time I got there. I did see a few folks packing up their belongings and leaving the area. The only place that seemed to be busy was the little restaurant near the resort.

Although terrified, most people affected realize that life is more important than property, and are thankful for the time to gather belongings and evacuate if necessary (as opposed to, say, a tornado situation).

-Carolyn Willey

A scary thought crossed my mind this morning as I was preparing to post this latest blog and a batch of Wallow Fire photos (courtesy of my new Flickr friend, Carolyn Willey from Sierra Vista, Arizona): What if people start becoming numb to the images and updates about the Wallow Fire? What if people stop paying attention and move on to the next news story? When will we reach that point where we see yet another story about the Wallow Fire and we just flip the channel?

What if we fail to learn the lessons of this massive blaze? And what if it happens again?

Arizona is our home, and as this story plays out on TV and via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr), it’s our responsibility to keep it top of mind … to never forget how susceptible our forests are to fire … to be hyper-aware of what human negligence can lead to … to never forget the heroes who tirelessly work to protect homes, save lives and extinguish the flames.

I think this quote pretty much sums it up: Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.

And the price has already gone up — a lot. As of today, the Wallow Fire has eclipsed the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski blaze in terms of total acres burned, making it the largest wildfire in Arizona history. In an effort to help keep history from repeating itself, Arizona Highways is committed to wildfire prevention through education. In the coming months, you’ll hear more from us about the importance of being smart when it comes to visiting our forests: learn how to properly put out a campfire, don’t use fireworks in restricted areas, don’t toss cigarette butts out the window, etc. Because, let’s face it, every one of those acts can have dire consequences.

So here’s what we’re asking: When the Wallow Fire becomes last week’s news, please do your part to never forget the kind of devastation fire can inflict on our state. That’s right, OUR STATE.

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