Tue, Feb. 25

County bans fires until further notice

Hot, dry conditions – perfect kindling for a potential blaze – have officials from fire districts throughout Yavapai County on alert.

Responding to the U.S. Forest Service’s determination that the fire danger is at an all-time high, county officials on Monday banned all open fires, including campfires, in Yavapai County, whether on private or public land.

The county cited the energy release component used by the Forest Service, which comprises a measurement of the fuel moisture, relative humidity and temperature tested by the agency on June 7, which yielded “the highest in recorded history.”

Tom Tobin, of the Prescott National Forest Fire Center, said wildfire fuel moisture is hovering at 6 percent to 7 percent. By comparison, he said, kiln-dried lumber has 12 percent moisture.

The county’s move coincides with Forest Service restrictions recently imposed in the Prescott, Kaibab and Coconino National Forests, all of which encompass or border the Verde Valley. With cooperation from fire districts and departments located inside municipalities, the ban extends to both unincorporated and incorporated areas of Yavapai County. Only gas stoves and lanterns, and backyard charcoal or gas barbecues are immune thus far.

Sedona Fire Marshal Will Loesche said Coconino County imposed a similar ban earlier this month and it remains in effect until the extreme fire danger subsides.

Although light rains have fallen in the past few days, officials remain on guard, particularly where lightning is concerned, according to Richard Straub, Yavapai County public works director.

“From Mother Nature itself, it’s going to be difficult for the next few weeks,” said Straub.

Acting on concerns from Nick Angiolillo, emergency management coordinator for Yavapai County, Straub said 27 fire districts contacted support the fire restrictions, with several districts desiring to maintain control over whether they would have fireworks this Fourth of July holiday.

He said provisions in the resolution declaring the ban allow the individual fire districts to make their own decision on fireworks.

The Sedona, Camp Verde, Lake Montezuma-Rimrock, Cottonwood, Cornville-Page Springs, Jerome and Clarkdale fire departments are among those that have agreed to observe the restrictions laid out by Yavapai County, with Sedona observing Coconino County’s as well.

Fireworks displays already have been canceled in some areas including Sedona, Lake Montezuma-Rimrock and Camp Verde, which was working in conjunction with the Yavapai-Apache Nation to have a fireworks show.

A spokesperson for Cliff Castle Casino said Tuesday morning that display had been canceled. So far, only Cottonwood is continuing with its plans to hold a fireworks show.

Angiolillo said he plans to lift the restrictions on a case-by-case basis after consulting with the individual districts.

Failure to abide by the restrictions could result in citations being issued.

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