Campfire Ban Grounded in Science, Emergency Management Strategy

3/7/2013

FLORENCE, AZ – Campfires, bonfires and fire pits are a central part of fellowship at campsites. Unfortunately due to the extreme fire risk from repeated years of drought, they are currently banned in unincorporated areas of Pinal County.

“In the past, several Arizona counties have experienced significant forest fires that have stretched not only Arizona’s local emergency responders to the limit but also required significant state and federal resources to respond to the emergency,” said Pinal County Emergency Manager Lou Miranda.

Another reason for the ban involves the air quality conditions in Pinal County.

“Portions of the county are in violation of the EPA health-based standards for dust and other particulate matter and campfires contribute to the problem,” said Don Gabrielson, Pinal County Air Quality Director. “Winds die down in the evening, inversions trap pollution at ground level. The many fires left smoldering overnight at Country Thunder often resulted in a low-lying layer of smoke that could trigger health and respiratory problems.”

Pinal County enacted a resolution in June 2012 banning campfires and bonfires. The ordinance, which is still in effect, also places restrictions on commercial (professionally-produced) fireworks shows.

“Several people who are planning to attend Country Thunder have called us, criticizing the county’s ban. While there is a process in place to obtain burn permits for non-toxic vegetation and other debris, the permits do not override the ordinance and do not apply to public lands or private lands being used for public purposes,” said Pinal County Code Compliance Manager Wes LaCrosse. “Campfires will not be permitted at Country Thunder due to the existing county ban.”

Miranda said that the size and scope of an event like Country Thunder presents a unique challenge for emergency responders.

“If a brush fire starts, we could have a serious evacuation and safety issue,” Miranda said. “The fire danger is particularly acute in our desert open spaces and on our public lands. Just because we haven’t had a fire at Country Thunder doesn’t mean there isn’t a valid risk. The event promoters understand the concerns and are supportive of the County’s fire ban.”

“We don’t want to prevent anyone from having a good time at Country Thunder but a swift moving brush fire could be devastating,” LaCrosse said.
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