Most drones are operated by hobbyists, but soon, the number of drones in the skies is expected to rise, and that’s putting pressure on local governments to craft regulations.
Brush fire threatens structures in Black Canyon City
A fire now two acres in size ignited in Black Canyon City Saturday afternoon, according to the Central Arizona Wildland Response Team.
The fire, called the Joes Hill Fire, is threatening multiple structures, authorities said.
Shortly before 7 p.m., 24 units were on the scene, mostly from Daisy Mountain and Black Canyon fire departments. The fire is near the 21000 block of East Smitty Way.
Spreading Snake Ridge Fire leads to more forest closures
The lightning-caused Snake Ridge Fire has grown to 4,850 acres and is still creeping across the forest floor in the Coconino National Forest.
Forest closure areas have been expanded to the north and east of the fire area, which is about nine miles northwest of Clints Well and several miles west of Lake Mary Road.
Smoke is expected to be visible along Lake Mary Road, on state Routes 87 and 260, and in nearby communities and the Verde Valley over the next several days.
Pinal Fire still growing; pre-evacuation order issued
The Pinal Fire burning south of Globe had scorched more than 6,400 acres of land by Saturday morning.
On Friday, officials issued a precautionary pre-evacuation notice to some residents in the area, the Gila County Sheriff’s Office said.
The notice only affects residents in the Icehouse and Kellner canyons who are south of the Icehouse and Kellner junction, southwest of Globe.
Officials stressed that residents do not need to leave the area at this time, adding that the precautionary notice is because of a change in the fire’s “weather and fuel conditions.”
Local public-safety personnel will go door to door to give residents information about the pre-evacuation procedures, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The Sheriff’s Office said residents should start making preparations now in case an evacuation becomes necessary.
Residents with livestock can choose to shelter their animals at the Burch Sale Yard, officials said, adding that the Phoenix Humane Society would assist in providing shelter for pets if necessary.
More than 600 personnel were working on combating the fire, almost double the number from Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the fire had consumed about 4,300 acres.
The Pinal Fire is the first naturally caused fire to spread through the area in 65 years, starting from a lightning strike on the afternoon of May 8. The fire is being fueled by timber and chaparral in the area, officials said.
Fire officials determined early on to treat the fire as a controlled burn because the area had not burned naturally in so long, while keeping crews in place to prevent it from crossing containment lines.
Residents with questions were asked to call the Pinal Fire Incident Command Center at 928-487-0676.
The Tonto National Forest said the fire was expected to be contained by June 15.
Firefighters spotted four drones flying illegally near the Pinal Fire, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The drones have hindered firefighting operations, prompting the agency to repeat its message that drones are not allowed near wildfires.
When drones are in the area, firefighters ground their aircraft. Helicopters are particularly susceptible to collisions, even with smaller objects, and so it is considered unsafe to fly with a drone in the air.
One drone operator has been cited for flying near the Pinal Fire.
Drone operators who violate the law “may be subject to civil penalties, including fines of up to $25,000, and potentially criminal prosecution,” the agency said in a news release.
The fire, which has burned about 6,418 acres since May 8, is being allowed to burn in some areas but contained in others. Firefighters had to ground a tanker releasing retardant until one of the drone issues was resolved, the Forest Service reported.
Fire restrictions imposed in southeastern Arizona and in the Tonto Forest
Dry conditions have triggered fire restrictions throughout southeast Arizona, including Coronado National Forest, where campfires are banned except in developed campgrounds.
Charcoal fires, smoking, target shooting, welding and smoking are included in the ban, which was announced in a multiagency press release.
Camp stoves are allowed. Fires are allowed in metal fire rings at campgrounds but must be extinguished when you leave the campsite.
The ban also covers a number of national parks and monuments, state lands and the Gila District of the Bureau of Land Management. Although there is no camping where some of the restrictions apply, smoking is restricted to vehicles, buildings, developed recreation sites or barren areas at least 3 feet in diameter clear of all flammable materials.
The national parks and monuments are:
Saguaro National Park
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Coronado National Memorial
Chiricahua National Monument
Fort Bowie National Historic Site
Tumacácori National Historical Park
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
State lands in Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz and Yuma counties are also under fire restrictions.
Tonto National Forest announced a ban last week.
For more information, go to firerestrictions.us.
Fire restrictions in effect for Tonto Forest
Tonto National Forest has imposed fire restrictions, banning open campfires and other activities that may spark a wildfire.
Rising temperatures have prompted the agency to restrict fires to metal fire rings in developed campsites, which means campers in undeveloped areas must use stoves, lanterns and heating devices.
The agency has also banned welding equipment, chain saws, or “operating combustion engines without spark-arresting devices,” the agency said in a press release.
Target shooting is prohibited while the restrictions are in place. Hunting is allowed. Fireworks and explosives are prohibited year-round. Exploding targets and tracer rounds are illegal on public lands.
Smoking is prohibited except within an enclosed vehicle or building, or at a developed recreation site as long as butts are not tossed on the ground.
With temperatures climbing, grasses and leaves are drying out and the fire danger is rising, the agency said.
For more information on fire restrictions, call 602-225-5200, or go to the Tonto Forest’s website.
6 ways people start wildfires
Every weekend, people abandon dozens of campfires on public lands. And every year, some of those campfires spark forest fires — some serious, some not — that could have been prevented.
Although abandoned campfires cause plenty of wildfires in the high county, it’s a different story in the desert.
The Forest Service only keeps track of two causes of fire, lightning and human caused, so the agency doesn’t have hard numbers on the types of human-caused fires, said Carrie Templin of Tonto National Forest. But the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management say desert wildfires frequently start on Arizona’s highways.
10 of the biggest wildfires since 2002
Today’s wildfires are bigger than they once were. That’s no guarantee that this fire season will be bigger than the last, but in 2002, when the Rodeo-Chediski fire burned about 468,638 acres, Arizona got a glimpse of what a century of fire suppression, climate change and a spark can lead to.
High Country News reports that not only are large wildfires more common, but the fire season is also longer.
Here is a look at Arizona’s 10 biggest blazes since 2002.
Crews battle fires near Nogales, Globe
Two wildfires burning in parts of Arizona were not posing an immediate threat to any residents and at least one was being allowed to continue burning, according to officials.
The Peña Fire had burned about 300 acres of mostly grass and brush as of Tuesday night in an area south of Peña Blanca Lake west of Nogales, Coronado National Forest officials said.
The second major fire was burning about 6 miles south of Globe, west of State Route 77, in the Pinal Mountains.
The Pinal Fire was caused by lightning on May 8, according to Tonto National Forest officials.
It had burned about 206 acres as of Tuesday and was zero percent contained, but crews were working the fire as a natural prescribed burn to help prevent future fires, noting the area had not experienced a fire since 1952, when 36 lightning strikes were recorded, said Andrew Mandell, incident commander.
Kaitlyn Webb from the U.S. Forest Service explains how a prescribed burn is conducted and how it helps the forest.
Setting small fires to prevent the big ones
For the past decade, Coconino National Forest has burned between about 8,000 to 22,000 acres each year with prescribed fires. The cost of a controlled burn is in the thousands of dollars.
Wildfire costs — manpower, home damage, rehabilitation, property value and other costs — run into the millions.
And prescribed burns can help restore forest health after decades of fire suppression.
Old Bisbee fire burns at least 6 structures
Authorities say at least six structures have been lost after a wind-whipped fire in Bisbee.
The fire had burned little more than five acres and was contained overnight.
Although about 50 people were evacuated Monday evening during the firefight, no overnight shelters were needed, according to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office.
No injuries were reported.
Father of Granite Mountain hotshot hopes to move one of the team’s buggies to a museum
Two buggies used by the Granite Mountain Hotshots have been put up for sale, and the father of one of the fallen firefighters hopes to turn one of the vehicles into a memorial.
Joe Woyjeck, a retired fire captain and volunteer at the Los Angeles County Fire Museum, said he would like to bring one of the buggies to the museum, to honor the 19 firefighters who died battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013.
The buggies were used to transport the hotshots to fire scenes and were in Yarnell June 30, the day the Yarnell Hill Fire killed all but one of the elite firefighters.
Woyjeck said his son, Kevin, spent a lot of time in the fire museum while he was growing up.
“All three of my children were in the museum pretty much from the time they could walk,” Joe Woyjeck said.
The Daily Courier in Prescott reported that, in addition to the buggies, the city of Prescott would like to sell Fire Station 7, where the hotshots were based.
Woyjeck said he was focused on the buggies and did not know what might happen to the fire station.
“We want to make sure at least one of the buggies is in our collection … and is treated with dignity and respect,” he said.
Although the museum will have the final say, Woyjeck said he envisions having a plaque or seat assigned to each firefighter in the back of the buggy. He also envisions a place where people can leave letters for the fallen hotshots.
Woyjeck said he expects to hear soon on the museum’s bid.
“There’s no agenda involved other than honoring those 19 firefighters. … We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
READ MORE: Complete coverage of Arizona wildfires
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