Mt Lemmon prepares for wildfire season, fire department worries about campers

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Mt Lemmon prepares for wildfire season, fire department worries about campers

By Rikki Mitchell. CREATED May 18, 2014

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Even though it happened more than a decade ago, the Aspen Fire is still fresh in the minds of Mt. Lemmon residents.

"Nothing would survive in the fire that came in '03," said Resident Bill Piatkiewicz. "It came over like a waterfall, I mean it was absolutely incredible. The cabin that was here, the glass melted in place."

For Piatkiewicz, he's willing to do anything to prevent another fire from taking his cabin.

"Once you go through a fire, it changes your life dramatically," he said.

On Saturday, he welcomed Mt. Lemmon firefighters as they performed an inspection of his property.

And that's just one way Mt. Lemmon Fire Chief Randy Ogden says his department prepares.

"The more we can do upfront to prevent fires from starting, the easier it will be to get through this fire season," he said.

He says his department had to put out 19 campfires just in the last week. And with southern Arizona conditions ripe for wildfire, he says they are worried this season will be bad.

To prepare for that, he says his firefighters have more training, better equipment and a new radio system to prevent dead spots.

But no matter how much they prepare, Chief Ogden says recreational visitors pose the highest threat.

"They're the ones that we're afraid that don't put the fire out all the way and the wind kicks up, and the wind is always up, up here, that it will fan the embers and start a fire," he said.

He says campfires have to be in organized camping areas and can't take place in wilderness areas.

He also says smokers can only use designated areas, and he asks that you make sure the cigarette is completely out before tossing it.

Rikki Mitchell

Rikki Mitchell

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Rikki Mitchell is a proud University of Arizona grad and joined the KGUN9 team after graduation. Rikki reports for the evening newscasts.