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Forest Service Tracks Fire Violators

June 4, 2004

PHOENIX (AP) _ Pilots wearing night-vision goggles are flying night patrols over two national forests in Arizona, looking for campers who ignore bans on campfires and cigarettes.

The Forest Service announced the restrictions last week to help prevent wildfires as the summer heats up.

Officials in Coconino and Prescott national forests arranged with the Arizona Department of Public Safety for state police to fly over forests and report the coordinates of suspected illegal fires. The two national forests, both north of Phoenix, total about 3 million acres combined.

With the night-vision goggles, even lit cigarettes can be visible up to a mile away, said Dave Brookshire with the DPS air rescue unit based in Flagstaff.

``It’s easy to see campfires with night vision. All you have do is turn your head,″ he said.

Arizona’s fire season started in May, prompting the restrictions on smoking and open campfires, except in developed campgrounds. Violators face fines of $25 to $50, although penalties can reach $5,000 and include jail time depending on how negligent or egregious the violation.

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