Campers warned: Fire restrictions increase Tuesday

Campers warned: Fire restrictions increase Tuesday
Fire restrictions begin May 1. (Source: Tucson News Now)

MT. LEMMON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - They were packed for a six-day excursion. Randy Lammert and Jim Reece, both from Kansas City, were spending some time at General Hitchcock Campground in the Catalina Mountains.

They rolled dice Monday afternoon, April 30, and enjoyed lounging around.

"It's been great. Except for last night. It got pretty darn cold," Lammert said.

But starting Tuesday, May 1, they won't be able to heat themselves by the fire pit.

The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management announced it is implementing Stage II Fire Restrictions across all southern Arizona state-owned and managed lands, affecting Cochise, Greenlee, Graham, Pima, Pinal, and Santa Cruz counties.

"We're in fire season all year. We started to become more active in February. We saw a fire in the Dragoons go to 3,000 acres in three hours. You don't think about that happening in the middle of winter," said Heidi Schewel, Public Affairs Specialist in the Coronado National Forest. "What didn't burn last year is still there. Plus, what has come along since then. So the conditions are just as flammable this year as they were last year."

[SEE THE LIST OF RESTRICTIONS: http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/38023239/dry-conditions-trigger-fire-restrictions-in-southeastern-arizona]

It comes as firefighters battled a wildfire in the Catalina Mountains, near mile marker 6 of Catalina Highway, that burned about 25 acres. The Bug Fire was discovered around noon Monday and is burning just above the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area.

The Coronado National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, and Saguaro National Park, are all included in the Stage II Fire Restrictions starting Tuesday.

"We skipped Stage I this year," Schewel said, talking about how Stage I allows for fires in developed sites and smoking in cleared areas. "We've just skipped that because we're already - our numbers that we follow that tell us what would happen if we get a spark - at the point where the risk is high enough where we're saying no fires."

The restrictions will be a hurdle for those hoping to spend a few nights in state lands. Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire is not allowed, including a campfire, charcoal, coal, or wood stove fire, even within a developed recreation site.

It wasn't an issue for Reece. He and Lammert were ready.

"We prepared for no fire, whatsoever. We have camped that way before. We're set up for that. All our stuff is if there was no fire going. We could live with no fire," Reece said, talking about how they're living off mostly canned goods. "It's really dry. It would be dangerous as windy as it is for someone to have fire out here."

Schewel hopes others are just as understanding.

"We don't like to impose restrictions. We're here so people can enjoy the public lands and we can help them do that safely," she said. "But we've reached a point where the risk is just too great."

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