Fire Restriction vs Backpacking Stoves

The Tonto NF has announced fire restrictions from May 14th until, well, until the area gets serious rain.

The Prescott and Coconino NF’s have announced similar restictions starting tomorrow. Typically, these closures cover all the National Forests in the state by the beginning of June.

This is what that means, according to the press release:

Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or charcoal-burning device is prohibited. Restrictions also apply to smoking outside of a cleared area, operating internal combustion power tools, using welding equipment or torches with open flames, operating combustion engines without spark- arresting devices in effective working order, or discharging firearms except in taking game in accordance with Arizona hunting laws. Use of petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns, and heating devices are allowed, and some developed campgrounds are also exempted from these restrictions. (Please see attached list).

Note, however, that fires are still permitted within designated fire pits in established campgrounds.

There is considerable gray area regarding which sort of backpacking stoves are legal under fire restriction. I know that my trusty MSR Pocket Rocket IS legal, because, like most liquid-fuel stoves of this type, I can shut it off instantly by turning the valve. I also know that my little metal Hobo Stove is NOT legal, because even though the fire is wholly contained in the cylinder, I can’t just shut it off.

The grey area, then, consists of alcohol stoves, Sterno stoves, and solid fuel stoves. From experience, I know that the legality of these depend upon which ranger you talk to. So I called the front office.

According to Tonto NF Fire Supervisor Helen Graham, alcohol and sterno would be legal, so long as they can be immediately extiguished.

“The real spirit behind the restrictions is that it’s a fire you can put out immediately.” She explained.

So, as long as you have a lid handy that will snuff the flame, light-em up. Good news, since alcohol and sterno stoves (particularly well-made alcohol stoves) have excellent weight/cost/btu ratios.

Just don’t be the jack-ass who started the fire that prompted the FS to outlaw all backcountry stoves.

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