The triple-digit temperatures are here, and so is the threat of a fire starting at any given moment. While fire officials put in nicely in asking the public to be vigilante in these dry summer months, this column will be a little more blunt. The bottom line being, use common sense and respect the land you are using for camping, living or driving.Those of you who smoke, use your ashtray. I still get annoyed when I’ve driving down the interstate in there’s an idiot flicking a cigarette butt out of the window. As the ashes stumbled along the asphalt, I find myself wishing that this is one of those moments where a cop is strategically placed in order to stop them immediately and fine them as much money as possible for putting lives and land in danger.

Last year, Arizona went through the worst wildfire season in history, and the problem with it was that all of the devastating fires were human-caused.

One year after the fires, The U.S. Fire Service has yet to find those responsible for some of the fires. However, there is no problem assessing the amount of damage these fires caused.

In 2011, 86 fires burned across 365,000 acres of the Coronado National Forest. The Forest Service determined that 50 were human-caused, even though identifying the guilty parties can be extremely difficult.

The Horseshoe Fire began on May 8 of last year, burning in the Horseshoe Canyon area of the Chiricahua Mountains, and burned 223,000 acres, which included 23 homes and buildings.

The Monument Fire burned 32,053 acres of land in the Huachuca Mountains near Sierra Vista. Again, no suspect was arrested.

However, there was some justice as two men responsible for the fire that burned almost all of the Apache National Forest were arrested. Caleb Malboeuf of Benson and David Malboeuf of Tucson are facing up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine. The two will face sentencing next month for leaving a camp fire unattended.

The Wallow Fire burned 538,000 acres of pine forest in Eastern Arizona and New Mexico.

So, if warnings from actual fire officials mean nothing, then maybe remember that there are two young men facing major penalties next month for being neglectful. If you don’t want to pay $10,000 or more in fines, or face a year in prison, then follow simple rules of camping.

Watch your campfires, be responsible if you are smoking and most of all be cognizant of the fact that you live in one of the driest states in the county. We have sunshine year round; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that sparks can fly from the simplest thing in this state.

A fire can get started just by parking your car over tall weeds, your house can burn down if you don’t cut the weeds and grass nearby to create a defense zone. These fire officials aren’t just spouting off nonsense; all of this is about saving lives, land and a lot of money and time.

The fallout from last year’s fires is still being assessed; the damage is still being paid for. Homes are being rebuilt, communities are fighting over water rights because pipelines were damaged, and now, the fear of what could happen this year is present.

We already have four fires burning. Just remember when you see those signs on Interstate 10 that say the fire danger is extreme, it is indeed extreme.

A fire can be preventable, but it takes us being responsible to make sure no one else has to lose a home because of neglectful thinking.

—Thelma Grimes

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