Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fire damages Mittry Lake and Betty's Kitchen Watchable Wildlife Area

Many of us have boondocked at Mittry Lake east of Yuma at the Betty's Kitchen Watchable Wildlife Area, enjoying waterfront campsites surrounded by rushes and willows. If you had a paddle boat, canoe or kayak, you could paddle out from your campsite into a great birdwatching area among the tulles and low wetlands of the lower Colorado River.

That has now changed as the Laguna Fire has burned between 400 to 800 acres of vegetation along the Colorado River in the Betty's Kitchen area. The BLM reports that the fire was man caused, however the exact cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The fire, which began at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25th, is burning salt cedar, willow, cottonwood and mesquite in the Colorado River riparian area. The fire started in California and hopped the river into Arizona. Approximately 95 percent of the fire is in Arizona.

The fire has destroyed a historic abandoned cabin known as “Pappin House” and portions of Betty’s Kitchen Watchable Wildlife Area and Interpretive Trail near Laguna Dam.

A large sign at Betty’s Kitchen, a ramada, a wooden footbridge, some vegetation and a BLM water truck were burned during the wildfire.

A second ramada and bathrooms at the location were spared. Much of the foliage will grow back, but it remains to be seen how much the fire will affect this not-well-known boondocking camping area.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Yuma and Lake Havasu City BLM districts restrict campfires

The abundant rain this winter has resulted in a green and verdant desert. However, as the days get warmer the vegetation dries out, and because there is so much vegetation, it becomes a fire hazard. This year has already seen disastrous wildfires.

The Horseshoe Two wildfire is right now burning more than 26,500 acres in southeastern Arizona and is only 20 percent contained. About 600 firefighters are attempting to get the fire out threatening the community of Portal in the Chiracahua mountains, an area internationally known for its excellent birding. The fire is strong enough to back into the wind and make short uphill runs, with flames from 2 to 15 feet.

In another area, the BLM has issued fire restrictions on 2.5 million acres of public land in the Yuma and Lake Havasu districts, and along the Colorado River on the California side.

The BLM says that there are not plans to close any of the areas, they want to make clear that the following acts are prohibited:

• Open campfires, charcoal grills and stove fires. Campfires and charcoal grills are only permitted in developed recreation sites or improved sites, where agency-built fire rings or grills are provided. The use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, or heating devices is allowed on public lands provided such devices meet the fire underwriter's specifications for safety.

• Smoking is restricted to enclosed buildings, within a vehicle, and on a paved or surface road, within a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least six feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.

• Use of fireworks, flares, or other incendiary devices.

• Welding or the use of any torch or metal cutting implement.

Violations of these restrictions are punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or imprisonment of not more than 12 months.

Imperial, Cibola, Bill Williams, and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges continue to enforce year round fire restrictions.

For more information on fire restrictions, call 1-877-864-6985, or visit

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Forest Service in Arizona bans campfires

The Forest Service in Arizona said that increasing fire danger has made campfires outside of campgrounds will be banned on the Coconino National Forest beginning today.

The Kaibab National Forest also will implement Stage 1 fire restrictions (see definition of Fire Restrictions below) on the Williams and Tusayan ranger districts also today. These restrictions will likely stay in place until the Summer monsoons begin.

Fire Restrictions four stages defined
Stage 1 restrictions ban fires, campfires, charcoal, coal, or wood stoves outside of developed campgrounds. Smoking is limited to within enclosed vehicles or buildings or in developed campgrounds. Pressurized liquid or gas stoves, lanterns, and heaters meeting safety specifications will continue to be allowed.

Stage 2 restrictions include prohibiting campfires and other fires in developed campgrounds, as well as prohibiting motorized vehicle and chainsaw use.

Stage 3 restrictions include shutting off sections of the forest.

Stage 4 restrictions are wider closures, where an entire forest could be closed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

National Weather Service issues red flag warning for all Arizona forests

The National Weather Service has issued the first red-flag warning for most of Arizona on Wednesday, May 4. US Forest Service officials asked campers not to use campfires on any of Arizona's national forests.

A red flag warning means that any wildfire has a strong potential for extreme growth because of high winds and low relative humidity.

Although this is the first red flag day of the year, Central Yavapai Fire District personnel already have had to put out two wildfires caused by people using burn permits where tumbleweeds turned into rolling balls of fire in windy areas north of Prescott Valley earlier this month, CYFD Fire Marshal Charlie Cook said.

Rainfall measuring sites on the Prescott National Forest are averaging only about half of their usual precip, unlike many other parts of the country where floods and tornadoes rage. Winter precipitation in Prescott was below average, and April is so far below average.

Campers in the national forests should also be extra alert for burnable material close to campfires even on non-red alert days.