Fire restrictions rescinded in areas of Navajo and Apache counties as well as the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

St. Johns, AZ- On Wednesday, June 22, 2022, the White Mountain Fire Coordinating Group met to discuss the current fire restrictions and monsoonal rains.   

Beginning Friday, June 24, 2022, the unincorporated areas of Apache and Navajo Counties, the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside, the towns of Taylor and Snowflake, Eagar, Springerville as well as the City of Show Low and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests will rescind all fire restrictions.

The decision to rescind fire restrictions included the analysis of several key data points including the energy release components (ERC) of the fuels in the region.  The ERC is valuable in determining fire danger because it acts as a fuel moisture index for all types of live and dead fuels. It tells fire managers how hot and fast the fuels will burn. The ERC’s have fallen well below the 90th percentile and are now in approximately the 50th percentile which is a good indicator of the fuel moisture content. In comparison, the ERC’s peaked toward the end of May over the 97th percentile which was one of the leading reasons for entering Stage 2 restrictions.  Another key data set is the number of fires (human or natural caused) throughout the region, which have been at record lows this year.

In addition, the projected weather forecast is for ample monsoon activity to be widespread across Northern Arizona with the daily minimum RH values (relative humidity) in the 30-45 percent range in the White Mountain Region, with maximum afternoon daily wind gusts no more than 20 mph. The 6 to 10-day and monthly weather outlooks are also a deciding factor in restrictions.  These data sets are forecasted to be above normal chances for precipitation and below normal temperatures for this time of year.

Finally, the group also assesses the availability of resources that would be called upon should a fire start. Most, if not all, of our local resources that have been sent to other areas to combat fires, have or are returning to their home base locations. Additionally, the USFS has a task force stationed in Lakeside as well as a large number of available federal resources. Further, the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management as well as the BIA Fort Apache Agency have access to additional resources.  

All of these pieces come together to form the deciding factors in entering or lifting fire restrictions and is a coordinated regional effort. “We follow the science and the data, and the data is telling us it is time to lift restrictions,” said Chief McCluskey of Heber-Overgaard Fire.

“That being said, even with having received some much-needed moisture and more forecast in the future, it is imperative that our community members and visitors stay vigilant and follow good land stewardship practices that will ensure our forests, homes and businesses are protected year-round. Therefore, we ask that our residents and visitors continue to practice fire safety with campfires and debris burning. When extinguishing any fire, be sure to drown it with water, stir the water in, and feel the area with the back of your hand for any heat, repeating as necessary to ensure the fire is completely out.  Further, at no time should you ever leave a fire of any kind unattended,” stated Catrina Jenkins, Navajo County Emergency Manager.

The White Mountain Fire Coordinating Group would like to thank all of our residents and visitors for their compliance to fire restrictions, together we are able to keep our communities safer.

Please continue to follow the Apache County Emergency Management and Preparedness Facebook page as well as the Navajo County Emergency Management and Preparedness Facebook page and 311info.net for updates on fire restrictions and other pertinent, vetted information pertaining to local hazards and preparedness.

Fort Apache Indian Reservation issues forest closures 6/16/2022

FORT APACHE FIRE CLOSURE STAGE 2 FIRE RESTRICTIONS

EXECUTIVE ORDER

Executive Order No. 06202202 – Amended

Ordering Closures and Fire Restrictions on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation,

with Limited Exceptions for Recreation and Other Activities

The Chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe hereby implements the following restrictions, pursuant to authority vested in the Chairman of the by Section 5.3 (B) of the White Mountain Apache Tribe Government Code.

The Chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe (“Tribe”), by signing this Executive Order, hereby imposes restrictions on public recreation to and within specified areas of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation (“Reservation”). This Executive Order applies to all Tribal members and non­ members, and is needed to protect our lands against the current fire danger that threatens the Tribe’s natural resources, timber, wildlife, economic resources, security, health, welfare and public safety. It is the intent of this Order to reduce the likelihood of human-caused wildfires on the Reservation.

Many of the publicly-open recreational lakes and campsites located on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation shall remain open to the public throughout the summer, subject to the hereby updated Stage 2 Fire Restrictions, and additional subsequent restrictions, as may be necessary. Additionally, all back-country sites on the Reservation are closed to the public until further notice, with exceptions for Law Enforcement, Game & Fish and Forest Rangers. This Order will be strictly enforced due to the drought that has created dangerous conditions conducive to accidental or intentionally-set fires.

  1. RESTRICTED and CLOSED AREAS
  1. Restricted areas include those unpopulated areas and non-exempted recreational sites within the following boundaries and as indicated on the attached map:
  • East along the eastern Fort Apache Indian Reservation boundary (NE to SE comers);
    • South along the Black River and Salt River (SE to SW comers);
    • West from the Salt River along the western Reservation boundary up to the NW comer of the Reservation and the northern boundary;
    • North along the Fort Apache Indian Reservation Boundary (NW to NE comers);
    • Traffic will not be permitted on R-55 beyond the junction at Rock Creek (R-55 & R-30);
  • Traffic will not be allowed on Y-70 beyond Seven Mile Hill;
    • All Salt River and Black River recreation sites are closed;
    • West of Cibecue School; and
    • North of Cibecue.
  • The following recreational lakes, rivers, and campsite areas are hereby CLOSED:
  • Reservation Lake;
    • Drift Fence Lake;
    • Pacheta Lake;
    • Tonto Lake;
    • Christmas Tree Lake;
    • Hurricane Lake;
    • Bonito Prairie Stock Tanks;
    • Bootleg Lake;
    • Iron Mine;
    • Black River;
    • Salt River;
    • Cibecue Falls;
    • Pacheta Falls;
    • East Fork above Rock Creek Jct.; and
    • Diamond Creek from 1st bridge up to 2nd bridge.
  • Authorized Personnel for closed areas: All areas closed within this Executive Order shall remain open for fire-fighting professionals and individuals on official Tribal business by relevant Tribal Programs, BIA personnel, timber harvesting activities, and critical infrastructure personnel. All such program personnel/vehicles need to be equipped with fire mitigation measures such as fire extinguishers, tools, radio communications, and PPE (some combination of one or more of these items). The following departments and programs will collaborate with the Game Rangers and inform them of authorized staff and authorized locations where work is occurring:
  • Tribal Forestry staff, crews, and contractors;
    • BIA Fire and Forestry personnel and crews;
    • Game Rangers and Forest Ranger;
    • Game and Fish staff and crews (Wildlife, Fisheries, Recreation);
    • Logging Operations- Sawmill;
    • Bear and Lion Outfitter guides;
    • Land Operations;
    • Livestock Associations;
    • Hydrology;
    • Cultural Resources and Archaeology;
    • Environmental Protection;
    • Public Works;
    • Transportation and Roads Departments;
  • WMA Housing Authority;
    • Critical infrastructure personnel; and
    • Public Safety Officers, including Police, Fire and Rescue, and EMS.

II.             OPEN AREAS WITH NO CAMPFIRES

  1. The following recreational lakes and camp site areas shall remain OPEN with Stage 2 Fire Restrictions in effect:
  • Sunrise Lake;
    • A-1 Lake;
    • BogTank;
    • Horseshoe Lake;
    • Big Bear Lake;
    • Little Bear Lake;
    • Hawley Lake;
    • Earl Park Lake;
    • Cyclone Lake;
    • Ditch Camp;
    • Paradise Creek;
    • Lower Log Campsites;
    • Upper Log Campsites;
    • Cooley Lake;
    • East Fork to Rock Creek Junction;
    • Diamond Creek area from Pump station up to Fish Hatchery; and
    • Cibecue Creek camp grounds (south of West End Elk Camp turn off).
  • Roads that are used as boundaries of this area will remain open to public traffic, unless otherwise specified.

III.          STAGE 2 FIRE RESTRICTIONS IN EFFECT:

  1. GENERAL RESTRICTIONS:

1. Building, maintaining, attending, or using fire, campfire or charcoal-burning devices are prohibited until further notice. The use of propane campfire or fire pit devices is prohibited as well.

EXEMPTIONS: Fires that are related to traditional ceremonies, religious events, wakes, and residential/tailgate cooking fires are allowed within the communities and within designated ceremonial areas. Propane grills are allowed.

11.  No debris burning until further notice.

111. Smoking is prohibited, except within an enclosed vehicle or building. 1v. Fireworks are always prohibited on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

v. Discharging of firearms is prohibited.

v1.  All motorized travel is restricted to developed roads.

v11. Operating an internal combustion engine other than a motor vehicle in forest and woodland areas is prohibited until further notice.

v111. Welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame m forest and woodland areas is prohibited until further notice.

1x. Cattle branding is prohibited until further notice.

x. Antler hunting is prohibited until further notice.

B.       INDUSTRIAL RESTRICTIONS:

1. Power saws are prohibited from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. for any wood cutting/thinning activity, except project crews which are properly equipped and performing fuels treatment projects may continue to work until 2:00 p.m. with one-half hour of monitoring by the entire crew following operations plus the provision identified under fire guards. Fire guards shall remain on duty each day for two hours after wood works has stopped. Fuels projects may mitigate this requirement with the addition of fire qualified engine patrols for two hours following completion of operations for the day. This restriction does not apply to residential and commercial properties.

11. Crawler-tractors, skidders, and sheers may be used until 10:00 a.m. Turbine-driven rubber-tire skidders, feller-bunchers, delimbers, and clearing equipment may be used until 12:00 noon. Operation on mineral soil .involving road excavating, watering, grading, surfacing, rock crushing, and/or other equipment maintenance may continue with unrestricted hours. Operations NOT on mineral soil must also shut down at 12:00 noon.

111. Welding is prohibited by the general public and is only allowed by authorized Tribal, Federal, or commercial personnel, and it is limited to commercial areas. Welding is not allowed in forest or woodland areas. Authorized personnel must have a fire extinguisher on hand and must stop work at 12:00 noon.

C.       ALL WOODCUTTING IS PROHIBITED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, EXCEPT FOR THE FOLLOWING AREAS AND FOR THE PURPOSES OF CEREMONIES AND WAKES ONLY:

  • East of Cibecue Creek; South of BIA Route 12 (Cibecue Creek to Cibecue Junction), US Route 60 (Cibecue Junction to Carrizo Junction) and State Route 73 to Fort Apache; west of White River to the confluence of the White and Black Rivers. (See the attached map.)

A firewood permit (no fee) is required to harvest :firewood in the designated area noted above. Also, a permit (no fee) is required to harvest other forest products and the poles used in a Sunrise Dance ceremony. The permit will serve as a pass to and from firewood gathering areas and the closed forest. Permits may be picked up at the Fort Apache Agency’s Branch of Forestry Office. All persons engaged in firewood gathering must have hand tools to extinguish any fires that may start, such as shovels, rakes, axes, and McLeods.

IV.           PENALTIES AND FINES

This Order shall become effective beginning Saturday, June 18, 2022. This policy shall remain effective until conditions improve at which time an announcement will be issued by the Tribe to lift the restrictions imposed herein. Anyone that violates this Order shall be subject to civil and/or criminal fines and penalties up to $2,000.00 and may be subject to imprisonment, where applicable, damages, and federal prosecution if unlawful actions lead to loss oflife or natural resources.

  • ENFORCEMENT

The Tribal Forestry Department and Fire and Rescue, in conjunction with BIA Fire Management, and Game and Fish, Tribal Forest Rangers, and Tribal Police shall inform the public of any supplemental restrictions and are responsible for monitoring and enforcing full compliance with the policy as stated herein. This Order is to be distributed to all Tribal programs, departments, enterprises, and federal, local, and state agencies, as well as to members of the news media. Furthermore, all Tribal Agency and Enterprise supervisors shall cooperate fully and provide any assistance necessary to help carry out the terms and conditions specified in this Executive Order.

kas \JJCls ut-

Kasey Velasquez, Chairman White Mountain Apache Tribe

Issued this 15th day of June, 2022.

Smoke impact for Pipeline and Haywire fire near Flagstaff 6/16/2022

The Pipeline Fire near Flagstaff was mapped overnight at 24,815 acres, with the Haywire at 5,372 acres.

This morning, smoke is noted in the Doney Park area and in Flagstaff (mainly the northern portion); however, smoke levels are not as high as were seen yesterday (Wednesday). Also, southwest winds are expected to increase this morning, so smoke that has settled into the region will begin to lift between 930 and 10 am.

With windier conditions today, there is a chance for more active fire behavior and smoke production. Smoke that is produced today is forecast to move toward the north-northeast, which will keep the majority of the smoke out of Flagstaff and the Doney Park area, but areas such as Cameron and Tuba City may see light to moderate smoke impacts during the day.

Overnight, winds will not become as light as the past few nights, so not expecting as much smoke to drain into the low-lying areas; however, still expecting moderate smoke impacts in Doney Park and the northern portion of Flagstaff. With south-southwest winds expected to increase earlier tomorrow, smoke will likely clear out of these areas after 9am.Tomorrow, smoke is forecast to disperse toward the north-northeast with light to moderate smoke impacts once again possible in Cameron and Tuba City and other locations on the Navajo and Hopi reservations. Also of note, there will be a chance of thunderstorms in the area tomorrow, which could produce outflow winds pushing smoke in any direction resulting in brief moderate to high smoke impacts at locations near the fire.