National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologists advise that a high pressure ridge is currently positioned over the four corners area of Arizona. This placement has provided conditions for moisture from Mexico to be swept into Arizona, bringing the much-needed moisture southeast Arizona normally receives at this time of year from the Mexican monsoon.
While a very welcome event, this surge of moisture brings with it lightning that has historically ignited a number of fires across the Coronado National Forest’s landscapes. A number of such ignitions are expected to occur over the next several weeks as monsoonal moisture moves into the area. While some lightning-ignited fires will be immediately evident, others may remain undetected for several days until conditions become favorable for them to grow into observable incidents.
Wildland firefighters, many of whom have been working on recent wildfires on the Forest, are positioned to respond to the expected new ignitions as the monsoon begins. It is anticipated that normally-occurring wetting rains will be associated with many of the lightning events and sufficient rain will fall to reduce wildfire activity and pause the Coronado’s year-round fire season. Until then and beyond, fire crews remain vigilant to respond to new ignitions.
As precipitation moves into southeastern Arizona, it does so sporadically. While some area of the Forest have received rainfall, other areas have not. Significant, wetting rains are needed to overcome dry conditions prevalent throughout the Forest. For this reason, Stage 2 fire restrictions remain in effect throughout the Forest.
Until fire restrictions are rescinded, the following are prohibited:
- Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove fire, including within a developed recreation site, or improved site.
- Using an explosive.
- Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building. (Smoking is prohibited in all federal buildings.)
- Operating or using any equipment powered by an internal combustion engine, except motor vehicles.
- Welding, or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame.
- Discharging a firearm, air rifle or gas gun, except while engaged in a lawful hunt pursuant to state, federal, or tribal law, and regulations.
- Possessing operating motor vehicles off National Forest System roads, including but not limited to cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, and ATVs, except for when parking in an area devoid of vegetation within 10 feet of the roadway, and except for parking overnight in Forest Service developed campground and trailheads.
Fireworks are always prohibited year-round on federal lands.
Violation of restrictions on federal lands is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor, which includes a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual and up to $10,000 for organizations and possible imprisonment for not more than six (6) months or both. Violators may also be held personally responsible for reimbursement of fire suppression costs. Arizona and New Mexico state laws carry similar penalties.
Pressurized liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters possessing shut-off devices are allowed. Areas where stoves will be used should be clear of grasses and other fine fuels. Stoves should be secured to prevent tipping and igniting a fire.
Cigarettes should never be thrown out the window of a vehicle. Instead, ashtrays should be used in order to prevent wildfires.
Vehicles should never be parked over dead grass; catalytic converters can ignite the vegetation.
For a more detailed explanation concerning agency restrictions and fire information in general, please visit http://wildlandfire.az.gov or call the toll-free Southwest Fire Restrictions Hotline at 1-877-864-6985.