More Homeless In The Forests Means More Fire Danger

April 16, 2014
Photo by Laurel Morales
Coconino National Forest patrol captain Jon Nelson checks out a camp where someone appears to be living in the forest.

Flagstaff police and partner agencies are investigating several recent human-caused wildfires. A dry winter and more homeless heading to the forest have emergency crews beefing up patrols.

During warm weather months Flagstaff’s largest homeless shelter closes down at night. That means dozens of displaced people head to the forests.

Flagstaff bans camping within city limits. But the city is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest. Only 15 prevention officers and lookouts staff that area.

“We’re concerned certainly that a fire gets started in a bad spot and will carry and will move fast beyond capability of us stopping it quickly,” said Don Muise of the Coconino National Forest.

Muise said wind is a critical factor this time of year. Four northern Arizona forests will begin enforcing fire restrictions about a month early to prevent wildfires.