WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation moved to Stage 1 fire restrictions June 21 to help suppress human-caused fires and wildfires in forest lands on the Nation, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said.
Begaye, along with Vice President Jonathan Nez and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Navajo Regional Director Sharon Pinto signed an executive order June 21 implementing the fire restrictions.
“As the Nation moves closer to the Fourth of July holiday season, we see an urgency to issue this executive order to help suppress human-caused fires and wildfires in our forest lands,” Begaye said. “
Begaye said that he has met with the BIA Fire and Aviation, the Navajo Nation Rangers and the Navajo Forestry Department to determine the proper restrictions.
“It's not our intention to restrict tribal members,” he said. “However, we are putting these restrictions in place to protect our people, property, land and natural resources.”
According to the BIA Navajo Region Firefighters, over 100 fires have been addressed this year with some resulting in personal injury and property damage. In northern Arizona, the height of fire season will run from May until mid-July when the monsoons hit.
Coconino County and the Coconino National Forest have issued Stage 2 fire restrictions while the Kaibab National Forest has issued Stage 1 restrictions. The lightning-caused Big Boundary fire is currently burning in the Coconino National Forest affecting 9,000 acres and the human-caused Rain Fire is burning in the Kaibab National Forest affecting 150 acres.
Apache County has issued Stage 1 restrictions as has the state of New Mexico.
“Every summer we face high temperatures and dry conditions across the Navajo Nation,” Nez said. “These conditions can bring severe impacts to our communities if not addressed with proper caution and common sense. We take the impacts of human and lightning-caused fires very seriously.
Nez said that he and Begaye looked at critical thresholds in assessing the situation before issuing the restriction.
“In this, we put the safety of our Nation first and foremost,” Nez said.
During this season of high temperatures, urges everyone to check on the elderly to make sure they are safe and hydrated.
The Stage 1 restrictions implemented prohibit: the possession and use of fireworks; building and using fire, campfire, and charcoal exempting usage in developed sites; and using firearms or incendiary devices without a valid permit.
Propane, gas or other petroleum-fueled stoves are allowed for livestock branding and ceremonial fires will be permitted by the Navajo Nation Environmental Agency's (NNEPA) issuance of a NNEPA Burn Registration.
Permitted usage and restrictions are outlined in the executive order.
Pinto commended all firefighters for protecting the safety of the Navajo Nation and reiterated that open fires create embers, which can potentially cause wildfires.
“During this time, the greater need is public policy across the board to protect the natural resources that exist within the Navajo Nation,” Pinto said.
The implementation of Stage 1 fire restrictions on the Navajo Nation is temporary and will be rescinded upon further assessment.