In June the Schultz fire, started by an abandoned campfire, burned 15,000 acres north of Flagstaff, Arizona. As far as I know, the culprits have not yet been found but there was a reward offered by a local brewery of free beer for life for anyone with information leading to the campers who left the fire burning.
At a public meeting this week the Forest Supervisor of the Coconino National Forest discussed the fire restrictions which were not in place when the fire started. Here is an excerpt from the Arizona Daily Sun:
One question prompted the most audience applause Wednesday night at Coconino High: Why weren’t any fire restrictions in place before the fire began?
The Schultz Fire began this past summer after other major wildfires had already prompted evacuations, including the Hardy Fire and a fire in Spring Valley.
Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart responded:
“Trying to come up with criterion as to when it’s best to close the forest is really, really difficult,” he said.
The agency has not opted to use certain dates of the year to set or remove fire restrictions, because sometimes those dates don’t match what’s been happening with the weather, he said.
Also, Stewart doesn’t want to close the forest to public access when it isn’t necessary, he said.
The Coconino tries to match its fire-restriction decisions to three other forests so that the public isn’t confused about what the rules are in various places, he said.
The decisions about whether to implement fire restrictions across these forests are made in Monday-morning phone calls during the spring and summer.
The Schultz fire started on a Sunday after a Saturday wildfire forced the evacuation of parts of southeast Flagstaff.
So it occurred before the Monday meeting used to discuss fire restrictions or closures.
“The reality was, in this case, the Schultz fire was 24 hours too early,” Stewart said. “We had not gotten into those discussions.”