Patrols search out fire violations in Arizona campgrounds

FOUNTAIN HILLS, AZ - It's hot, and dry in the deserts surrounding the Valley, and that has Forest Service officers on high alert.

"We're headed down into mesquite wash. This is a fairly popular area for campers," US Forest Service Fire Prevention officer, Gregor Crawford said as he drove north of Fountain Hills.

Saturday morning, ABC15 rode along as patrols searched campgrounds for illegal fires.

The dry conditions have prompted strict fire restrictions. Off-road vehicles must have proper fire suppression equipment, outdoor shooting is prohibited, and there's a ban on camp fires.

"Open fires at this time of year is a no-no," Crawford said.

Even though camp-fires are off-limits, several spots showed signs of recent use.

"Basically what would have happened is this would creep, get into here, get into here, and before you know it, it's off to the races," he said.

Officer Crawford wet down and covered several recent fires.

Near a dry wash, he found flames burning from an abandoned campfire.

Evidence, he says, that some people just aren't taking the risk of fire seriously, and reason for him to continue his patrols.

"I believe there's a percentage of the public that thinks they're exempt from the restrictions," Crawford said.

A percentage of people he says could be behind the next big wildfire.

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