Flagstaff Neighborhood Wants Campfires Outlawed In National Forest

fromKJZZ

The Slide Fire hasn't forced residents in Flagstaff, Ariz., to evacuate. But they're worried about the potential for another wildfire, and what it could do to their homes and businesses.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A 14,000 acre wildfire near Flagstaff, Ariz. continues to rage this morning. Residents there are calling for the local forest to be closed off to campers. But officials are resisting, arguing that the town's economy relies on holiday tourism. Laurel Morales of member station KJZZ reports.

LAUREL MORALES, BYLINE: At a recent community meeting, residents of Kachina Village, a Flagstaff neighborhood, fill a middle school auditorium to voice their frustration with forest officials.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER #1: What is it going to take to get the forest shut down?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER #2: If you could at least shut down the forest around Kachina, I think we would all feel a lot better.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER #3: Yeah.

(APPLAUSE)

MORALES: Several people, including Ana Novak, plead with the authorities to close off the forest to campers. Campers are still allowed to have fires in designated areas, even though the Slide Fire was thought to be caused by humans.

After the meeting, Ana Novak sits down with the supervisor of the Coconino National Forest.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANA NOVAK: But people ignore rules all the time. And when they come out, they're camping in the forest, they don't realize it's our backyard.

MORALES: Forest official, Scott Russell explains they are monitoring the forest and the fire's behavior, and conditions haven't reached the threshold for closing. And he says, closing the forest would have economic impacts on loggers and others who work there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCOTT RUSSELL: And so all that is a tremendous burden on people whose lives are intertwined with the national forest. And so it's that balance that we're trying to strike.

MORALES: More than 1,200 firefighters are working to contain the Slide Fire. It remains the number one priority in the Southwest. For NPR News, I'm Laurel Morales in Flagstaff.

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