(Posted June 17, 2011 at 2:35 p.m.) Maricopa County Board Chairman Andy Kunasek today signed an emergency declaration temporarily restricting open fires, consumer fireworks and other sources of ignition within unincorporated Maricopa County.
“We can’t ignore the present risk,” said Pete Weaver, director of Maricopa County emergency management. “What we are seeing in other parts of the state remains a distinct possibility here given local conditions.” Weaver cited the 2005 Cave Creek Complex fire as an example of how wildland fires can impact desert areas and suburban communities.
Temporary restrictions include:
Excepted from this ban are petroleum-fueled stoves, barbeque grills or lanterns, or enclosed charcoal barbeque grills operated in residential yards, as well as special events specifically approved by the Board of Supervisors.
County emergency management officials have monitored conditions for months with growing concern. In addition to consulting with various local emergency managers and fire districts within Maricopa County, emergency management officials also cite concern about fire response to those areas outside of rural fire districts.
Fires within Maricopa County could also create public health concerns. “We saw what the fires did to air quality in eastern Arizona,” said Dr. Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. “We cannot afford a fire igniting and creating a detrimental situation to those already at higher risk for particulate pollution here in Maricopa County.”
Maricopa County’s ban falls in step with multiple other jurisdictions with large swaths of land within the county that have enacted similar bans.
Restrictions will remain in place until the reasonable risk of fire has subsided. “We’re all hoping the monsoons bring more rain than dry lightening,” said Weaver. “That will alleviate the need for restrictions.”
(Source: Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management)