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With the Fourth of July weekend here, a lot of families will be escaping the heat by packing up the car and heading to the mountains. The U.S. Forest Service wants you to have fun, but to also be really careful, especially when it comes to fire.

Fire season is upon us—as of press time, a couple dozen wildfires are burning throughout Arizona. Conditions are dry, and while the summer monsoon is bringing in much-needed rain, these violent storms also bring in lots of lightning!

“Come on up and recreate! But we just want them to have a safe time and a fun time at the forest,” encourages Marta Call, Acting Public Affairs Officer for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. “They can come camping any time they like— there are two million acres! Pick a spot, put in your camper or set up your tent.”

The recent heat wave has dried out forests here and in California. “The heat index kicks up and it’s hot again,” Call warns. “A small spark can start a large fire. We get quite a bit of lightning during those storms. We get frequent lightning strikes both monsoonal and dry lightning, which (can) cause small wildfires. Our Forest Service fire fighters respond to those.”

The Cedar fire southwest of Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside has burned the most Arizona forest so far—46,000 acres, but is nearing complete containment.

While fireworks (including sparklers) are NEVER allowed, dry conditions brought about Stage 1 fire restrictions for many Arizona forests. “That means people can only have camp fires in what we consider to be a developed campground where we have a host (volunteer) actually there. There’s no smoking except in a building or vehicle.”

Fires need to be in the fire pits provided, but stoves using propane or other petroleum-based fuel are also allowed.

Wild fires can be amazingly destructive and dangerous. In California, six fires have scorched 60,000 acres. The Erskine fire has burned down more than 200 structures and killed two people.

July 2016