Driving tips for visiting northern Arizona during wildfire season

Driving tips for visiting northern Arizona during wildfire season
Driving tips for visiting northern Arizona during wildfire season

COCONINO COUNTY, AZ (AZFamily)—More than 5.5 million people visit Coconino National Forest every year to hike, camp and enjoy the outdoors.

However, half of all fires that start in this forest are caused by humans, so there are a few things to know before your next trip.

Flagstaff District Ranger Matt McGrath said spring is one of their busiest times of the year as many people begin traveling up from the Valley.

“As we warm up down there, more people start to come up here,” McGrath said. So we get really busy late May, early June, which coincidentally is right when our fire danger increases significantly.”

However, the vehicles that help people reach the high country can also be a major fire threat.

“But of our human-caused fires, 90% of those start within 500 feet of a road,” McGrath said. “Which sounds like a big distance, but it’s actually not really. So generally, fires start where people, cars, and campsites go.”

For those towing a camper or car, be sure to check those chains or anything that can drag and start a fire.

“My first year here I got a phone call there were six fires on Highway 89 and I said ‘how is that possible?’” McGrath said. “Well, it’s the person dragging their chain and sparks were just littering the highway and starting fires.”

Once you arrive at your campsite, McGrath said even hot cars in tall grass could spark a fire.

“If you park in grass you start a fire or just a little spark you won’t even notice, you drive away, that spark remains and a fire could start,” he said.

When it’s time to head home, make sure the campfire is completely out by using at least five gallons of water. It should be cool to the touch.

Plus, ensure you’re having these fires in the right place at the right time. “If they see folks having a fire during fire restrictions, calling us is the most important thing they can do to help us catch a campfire before it turns into something worse.”

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