As warm temperatures, high winds, and low humidity arrive in Arizona, local fire officials are urging the public to use every precaution possible when dealing with fire.
Fire season is already in full swing, evident by current blazes like the Slide Fire in Oak Creek Canyon, which has burned through 22,000 acres near Flagstaff and Sedona. More than two dozen firefighters from Northwest Fire District (NWFD), including a crew of Ironwood Ridge Hotshots are combating the fire, which was approximately 90 percent contained as of June 2. Major fires have also been recently declared in New Mexico and Central California.
Like many during the dry months, the Slide Fire is thought to have been manmade, but that has not been officially declared, according to Capt. Adam Goldberg, public information officer for NWFD.
Either way, Goldberg says manmade fires are all too common during the warm months, when low moisture and wind can create hazardous conditions.
“There is plenty of fuel out there in the form of brush that is much dryer than normal,” said Goldberg. “Anything that can create a spark, whether that’s a discarded cigarette, lightning strike, or a trailer dragging along the ground – all those things can easily cause a fire.”
In the majority of instances, fires are the result of carelessness. This is particularly true during the summer months when people take to the mountains to camp and build fires, but do not take the proper precautions.
“Never build an open flame fire,” said Goldberg. “We know that people need to cook food and stay warm while camping, but a fire that is not in a controlled area like a fire pit is just asking for trouble.”
Regulations vary from forest to forest, but in most cases open flame fires are prohibited. Hot embers should never be left burning in a fire pit, and fires should always be monitored and kept as small as possible. The use of a grill is the preferred method of cooking food when it comes to safety.
Fire season equally affects safety in the home, particularly given that school is out and the Fourth of July is approaching.
“When school gets out, boredom leads to mischief,” said Goldberg. “Children with no education on fire, and with a lack of good supervision, creates an upswing in fires. It’s a matter of education. Kids are sponges for information, and we need to teach children that fire is dangerous, it hurts, and it destroys.”
This is also true when it comes to fireworks, which are a common cause of fire during the summer months. Though aerial fireworks are illegal for consumers in Arizona, many still manage to possess them, which often lead to fire or injury due to improper training. Even novelty fireworks, such as those that remain on the ground, can pose a threat if a yard contains any brush or plants that could ignite.
“When we have a hazard such as fireworks, we have to think proactively about supervision if we are going to light them,” said Goldberg. “Keep your kids clear, keep your pets clear, and after lighting them, make sure you are properly disposing of them.”
In some cases, throwing away a hot canister has led to house fires since it ignites the waste in the trashcan.
For more information on fire safety tips, visit www.northwestfire.org.