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Forest Service: Citing People Caught With Illegal Campfires Up To Forest Service Officer’s Discretion

During every fire season, there are people that will ignore fire restrictions and have a campfire anyway. That decision could cost them. All Northern Arizona forests are currently under Stage One fire restrictions. Last weekend in the Coconino National Forest, there were 13 illegal campfires that were found by forest service personnel. A question keeps coming up is, when someone is caught having an illegal campfire, what happens to them? Brady Smith with the Coconino National Forest says “the citing officer always has discretion when deciding to ticket someone or not, which is also the case if they are deciding to make it mandatory appearance in court or not.” Smith says, “in the future, this will change to where it will become an automatic mandatory appearance before the judge and officers will not have discretion on that part.” Smith says the decision to make it a mandatory appearance was signed by the courts in 2015, but it was put on temporary pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith says he expects the pause to be lifted in the near future. Many of the illegal campfires are noticed after the camping party has left the area and the fires haven’t been put out correctly. According to the current Stage One forest order, a person can be fined no more than $5,000 per person or $10,000 for an organization, and/or could spend up to six months in jail. The punishment is decided by a judge.