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Understanding New Wildfire Defense Ordinance

SeelhammerThe recent wildfire in Canada reminds all of us of the potential dangers we face here in Coconino County. As we head into summer and spend more time outdoors, this is a good time to talk about the county’s new Wildfire Defense Ordinance.

The ordinance replaced an outdated Open Burning Ordinance and was adopted by the Coconino County Board of Supervisors (BoS) last August in anticipation of this year’s wildfire season. Many people, along with our sister agencies, helped to create the new ordinance. It is intended to work in tandem with restrictions by other agencies (the City of Flagstaff, Arizona State Forestry Division, U.S. Forest Service), and to simplify the “dos” and “don’ts” for residents and visitors.

If warranted by dangerous fire conditions, the ordinance starts out by implementing a ban on any outdoor fires. Following this, there are three stages of fire restriction that can be put into effect by the BoS depending on the severity of fire conditions.


Each stage lists allowable outdoor fire related activities – with Stage One having the most allowable activities and Stage Three having the fewest. Below is an abridged listing of the three fire restriction stages. The full ordinance can be downloaded at www.coconino.az.gov/emergency.


Enjoy yourselves out there, and let’s have a safe summer!



A Stage One exemption allows for combustion, open fire and campfire only when used:

  1. By persons with a written permit from a proper governmental authority that specifically authorizes the prohibited act.
  2. For personal use of cigarette or other tobacco smoking medium when inside an enclosed vehicle or building, or in a developed recreational site in an area that is free of combustible materials and vegetation.
  3. For emergency repair of public utilities and railroads and other health and safety mitigation measures when operated by a public utility or railroad and implemented in accordance with an approved agency plan.
  4. By any Federal, State or local officer or member of an organized rescue or firefighting entity in the performance of an official duty.
  5. By persons whose open fire is the result of a device fueled by liquid petroleum or LPG fuels that can be turned on and turned off (for example a gas grill) when used in an area that is free of combustible materials and vegetation.
  6. By persons operating internal combustion engines in the course of mechanical or industrial operations that would produce open flames and sparks but containing appropriate spark arresting devices; those welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame in an area that is free of combustible materials and vegetation; and those using explosives with written permission of an authorized governmental agency.
  7. By persons operating motorized vehicles off designated roads and trails.
  8. By persons operating electric generators or pumps with an approved spark arresting device within an enclosed vehicle or building in an area that is free of combustible materials and vegetation.
  9. Persons engaged in industrial and ranching operations where specific operations and mitigation measures are identified in an operating plan.
  10. For cooking of food or for providing warmth for human beings in an area designated by a governmental authority specifically for that purpose; for example a campfire or open fire in an established campground with fire-hosting amenities [grill, fire ring].

Unless allowed by an exception above, common prohibited activities include open fire, campfires, fireworks, open smoking and use of explosive targets and tracer round ammunition.


The same as Stage One except activities 7 and 10 have been removed, and smoking is only allowed in a vehicle or enclosed area.


The same as Stage Two, except activities 5, 6, 7, and 8 have been removed.

A violation of Ordinance 2015-03 shall be a class one (1) misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a period of up to six months and/or a fine of $2,500. FBN

By Cynthia Seelhammer


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