Forest officials urge fire safety as Memorial Day weekend nears - Tucson News Now

Forest officials urge fire safety as Memorial Day weekend nears

Coronado National Forest (Source: http://www.fs.usda.gov/coronado) Coronado National Forest (Source: http://www.fs.usda.gov/coronado)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It is the day before a three-day weekend when thousands will head for the Coronado National Forest. But, Forest Service officials are warning about fire restrictions.

Whether you are planning a day trip or an overnight camping trip, U.S. Forest officials ask that you keep fire safety top of mind.

It can happen in a few seconds, a friendly campfire can spread, causing endless destruction.

"We are just starting to get into our hot dry period and we've already had over a dozen fires on the Coronado," Heidi Schewel, a communications staff officer with the Coronado National Forest said.

The 2003 Aspen Fire burned 84,000 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses in the Catalina Mountains.

"I see the signs, the fire signs, which actually makes us a little nervous," Rena Shadden said. Shadden and her family came to Mount Lemmon for the day to escape the Tucson heat.

It is hot, dry and windy, the perfect conditions for fire.

Stage one fire restrictions are in place, and that means you can build fires but only in developed recreation areas where metal grills and fire rings are provided.

Kristina Rask, a U.S. Forest Service firefighter says a fire is out when you can't feel any heat coming from the ground. It can take twenty minutes or more to fully extinguish a fire, using gallons of water and a shovel to create a wet mud.

Schewel says the most important thing to remember is to never leave a campfire unattended for any reason, for any length of time.

There are penalties for violating fire rules. Up to $5,000 for individuals, $10,000 for organizations and possible jail time of up to six months. Fireworks are never allowed in the Coronado National Forest.

For more on fire restrictions and other rules, visit the website.

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