Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Be aware of fire laws on Arizona public lands

The following fire restrictions are in effect for BLM public lands in Arizona:

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 are prohibited.

Welding or the use of any torch or metal cutting implement is prohibited.

For additional information on current fire restrictions, please call 1-877-864-6985 or visit

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Coronado National Forest to close due to extreme dry fire conditions

Hikers, campers, bird-watchers, and others who love outdoor recreation will be barred indefinitely from one of their most prized preserves, the Coronado National Forest. The entire two million-acre forest will be closed at noon Thursday because of extreme fire danger.

"The closure will remain in effect until significant moisture arrives," said Jim Upchurch, supervisor of the forest encompassing mountain ranges across Southern Arizona. "We recognize the impact this closure will have, but these are unprecedented fire conditions."

The closure includes popular Sabino Canyon (photo) northeast of Tucson. The only exception is the Catalina Highway to Summerhaven in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson which will remain open to residents, business operators, and the public during daylight hours. But no stops may be made at overlooks, trails or other sites along the way to Summerhaven. The road will be closed at night.

Violators could face fines of up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to six months, or both, said Heidi Schewel, a spokeswoman for the forest. Parts of Saguaro National Park also will be closed starting Thursday, park Superintendent Darla Sidles said.

She said all high-country trails and sites in the park's district east of Tucson will be closed, but the eight-mile-loop drive in the district will remain open. The district of the park west of Tucson is in desert mountain terrain and will remain open, Sidles said.

Town of Buckeye to transform 8700 acres of Arizona desert lands into a camping hub

Buckeye is leasing land from the Bureau of Land Management to transform the desert land into a camping hub complete with picnic areas, campgrounds, and hiking and equestrian trails reports the Tucson Citizen.

The town has signed a lease agreement with the BLM to develop 8,675 acres in the far West Valley into a regional park over the next 25 years. Buckeye plans to annex the land and begin constructing access roads to develop what for now is being called Buckeye White Tank Regional Park.

After 25 years, if BLM officials are satisfied with what Buckeye has done with property, they will transfer ownership to Buckeye. Buckeye leased the land at no cost under the federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act, enacted by Congress in 1954.

“It is a rather large acquisition, but the parcel was isolated from other blocks of public land. We had no interest in that land,” said Jim Andersen, a land-realty specialist for the BLM.

Under the plan, the entrance to Buckeye White Tank Regional Park will be at the end of Watson Road, about 2 miles north of Interstate 10 and south of Maricopa County’s White Tank Mountain Regional Park (photo) that the land borders and which is already popular for scenic desert hiking, campgrounds, and wildlife.

Buckeye officials hope to partner with the county and create trails that will interweave with existing trails at the White Tank Mountains.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Firefighters battle Arizona's second largest wildfire in history

The massive and out of control wildfire in the Ponderosa pine forests of Northeastern Arizona has now burned over 600 square miles.

Residents are fleeing several small Arizona mountain towns, as cars, trucks and trailers loaded with belongings streamed out of Eagar, flames dotted a ridge on the southeastern side of Springerville, and columns of orange smoke rose from the hills. 

Ash rained from a sky filled with thick smoke that has affected air quality as far north as Wyoming and as far east as Georgia.

This is the second largest wildfire in Arizona's history, and authorities are already looking into the cause. Several forest service campgrounds are dotted throughout the area, and some reports said the fire started from an "unattended campfire".  If this turns out to be true, what a devastating result from a camper's negligence.

As we enter the summer camping season, it cannot be stressed enough the importance of campers and RVers taking extra care to guarantee without a doubt that their fires are absolutely cold, dead, out. Carry a water bucket and shovel in your rig to use if an errant spark gets loose from your fire, and when you leave, pour water on the fire.

But that's not enough. Spread out the coals and feel with your hand that they--all of them--are cold to the touch. Then bury the fire with dirt. Don't leave even the slightest possibility of a sudden wind raising the smallest of hot spots into a fiery conflagration. And don't even consider building a campfire if weather predictions call for high winds. The cost of a simple, unintended mistake, can be too high to contemplate.