BLM announces fire restrictions in Arizona, California
Due to the dangers of wildfires, fire and smoking restrictions will now be enforced on all public lands within the Bureau of Land Management's Yuma and Lake Havasu Field Office jurisdictions.
The restrictions, which took effect Friday, are an attempt to protect the public, natural resources and reduce the risk of fires on 2.5 million acres of public lands along the Colorado River in Arizona and California.
"We want the public to be aware of just how dangerous it is to have fires on public lands," said Lori Cook, spokeswoman for the BLM's Yuma office. "It doesn't take much with the conditions we have this time of year to spark a fire."
Cook said the BLM is asking the public to use extreme caution when visiting public lands this summer.
Currently there are no plans, she said, to close any areas along the Colorado River area to public use.
The public is reminded that the fire restrictions prohibit the following acts:
1. Open campfires, charcoal grills and stove fires — Campfires and charcoal grills are only permitted in developed recreation sites or improved sites, where agency-built fire rings or grills are provided. The use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices is allowed on public lands provided such devices meet the fire underwriter’s specifications for safety.
2. Smoking — Smoking is restricted to enclosed buildings, within a vehicle and on a paved or surface road, within a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least six feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.
3. Use of fireworks, flares or other incendiary devices.
4. Welding or the use of any torch or metal-cutting implement.
Cook said the restrictions are necessary due to rising seasonal temperatures combined with very dry vegetation.
Spring rains, she said, resulted in the growth of wildflowers, grasses and other vegetation that is now drying, dying and poised to become fuel for wildfires as temperatures increase.
"Rain is both good and bad," Cook said. "While it is good because it brings us wonderful blooms of wildflowers and other vegetation, it is bad because once the summer comes, they dry out become fuel for fire wildfires as it gets hotter."
The restrictions will continue until conditions warrant rescinding. Cook added that because every wildfire BLM has fought this year has been human-caused, the agency wanted to put the restrictions in place before the big summer holidays.
Violations of these restrictions are punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or imprisonment of not more than 12 months.
Imperial, Cibola, Bill Williams and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges continue to enforce year-round fire restrictions.
For fire restriction information in Arizona and New Mexico: Call Toll Free: 1-877-864-6985 or visit the website at www.publiclands.org/firenews.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in California is also requiring permits for campfires and barbecues on public lands in the California desert.
On other BLM public lands in Southern California, all campfires and barbecues are prohibited outside of developed recreation areas.
Teri Raml, BLM Desert district manager, cited similar reasons as Cook for the need for restrictions in California as well.
"Above normal rainfall this spring treated us all to a spectacular bloom of wildflowers in the California desert," she said. "Unfortunately, that moisture and vegetative growth has dried out and increased our fire danger, requiring us to limit the use of campfires, barbecues, or portable stoves, or to require a permit."
She said, "With everyone's cooperation, we can prevent the large wildfires that we have experienced over the years in this region. Reducing the threat to private property and the fragile desert ecosystem is of the utmost importance."
Raml said the restrictions are officially referred to as Stage I covering BLM managed areas, and Stage II, covering “State Responsibility Areas” (SRA).
While Stage I Fire Restrictions apply to BLM lands in the California desert, Stage II fire restrictions apply to SRA in Kern, Inyo, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties. Please refer to Fire Restriction Map on the CDD website: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/cdd.html.
Stage I restrictions allow campfires and barbecues with a permit that can be obtained at all BLM field offices and fire/ranger stations, or from patrol personnel.
Stage II prohibits campfire and barbecues outside developed recreation sites. Controlled flame devices such as portable stoves are allowed by permit.
Raml warned that while the BLM appreciates the public's cooperation, noncompliance results in serious penalties by law.
Any person convicted of knowingly/willfully violating these fire restrictions can be fined up to $1,000, receive up to 12 months imprisonment, or both. That person also is liable for the damages and suppression cost of the wildfire.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.