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Forest Service spreads camping and campfire ban to communities around Flagstaff
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Forest Service spreads camping and campfire ban to communities around Flagstaff

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The Flagstaff Ranger District has decided to enlarge a city-based camping and campfire ban by 25,000 acres to communities around Flagstaff, saying it will help stop human-caused fires.

The original camping and campfire ban was spread over most of Flagstaff from Schultz Pass Road down Lake Mary Road until Bill Lesko Trailer Park, east to Walnut Canyon and north to Doney Park. The new ban extends out to Camp Navajo, down to more communities adjacent to the Interstate 17, and includes acres of Mount Elden. The national forest usually averages over 600 abandoned campfires a year, which can start fires if not put out correctly, said George Jozens, spokesman for the Forest Service.

Jozens said foresters have already begun putting up “no campfires or camping" signs.

“The areas that are now closed areas for camping and campfires are areas we’ve had issues with abandoned campfires and human-caused wildfires for decades," he said. "We’re just trying to reduce the risk and trying to take some of that danger out of our communities.”

The ban defines a campfire as including any fire that is not within a building or living accommodation on a motor vehicle that is used for cooking, personal warmth, lighting, ceremonial or aesthetic purposes. Camping includes occupying forest service land overnight without a permanently fixed structure.

The expanded camping ban will likely impact the many people without homes who live in the forests.

“This doesn’t eliminate the threat of wildfires so close to town, but it will definitely lower it. This forest order also helps reduce unsanitary conditions found on the forest near town from people illegally using the forest for residential purposes,” said Fire Staff Officer James Pettit in a press release.

Jozens said this process of excluding large parts of the forest service land from camping and campfires was done because clearly outlining bans in specific areas would be more complicated.

This ban has not been modified since it was first written in 1995 and didn’t account for the communities surrounding Flagstaff today. As the order is written, it will be in effect until January 2022.

The order also interacts with another recent order that prohibits fire in the Mount Elden/Dry Lake Hills area, expanding that area of campfire restrictions by 2,000 acres. The expansion means fire is no longer allowed in areas like the Freidlein Prairie Dispersed Campsites, which will still allow camping.

Due to the winter snow, many forest roads are closed anyway, Jozens said.

“We want you to remember that if you go beyond a closed gate, you’re responsible for any damage you cause and getting yourself out of there,” Jozens said.

Scott Buffon can be reached at sbuffon@azdailysun.com, on Twitter @scottbuffon or by phone at (928) 556-2250.

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