Local News

The Campfire Controversy Ends with No Charges Being Filed

September 27, 2011

By Mike Scerbo

The flames have been extinguished in the 3rd of July campfire controversy. The Coconino County Attorney’s Office wrote Tusayan Town Hall a letter saying the County Attorney did not have jurisdiction.  The Town wanted the Chamber of Commerce to face charges for lighting a small camp fire on a rainy day claiming the Town's Fire Ordinance had been violated. Here is a link to the Coconino County letter along with a long list of correspondence that outlines the confusion and chaos created by the affair.
Tusayan had asked that the Chamber of Commerce be held responsible for setting a campfire during the town gathering. The Tusayan Fire District also took some heat which led to protests and heated exchanges between the Town Council and Fire district supporters.
During an executive session of the Tusayan Town Council, members reviewed the letter with Town Attorney Bill Sims. After the session Sims said the case was handed back to him and he’s not prosecuting because of confusion over  the town fire ordinance. Sims still claims there was a violation, but he’s still not pressing charges.
“Even though there was a violation, we are incapable of enforcing it because we as a Town do not yet have that mechanism to conduct that enforcement.”
Sims adds, “In looking at the investigation there may be some misunderstandings and miscommunications.”
Sims is suggesting the Town revise the ordinance and then reach out to the public.
The fact that that council members and the Town Manager were present at the event and did not speak to organizers about the fire indicates that organizers would not know any laws were being broken. An email was sent as the event was about to start, and it appears then-Chamber director Norm Hanna had not had a chance to read it, which seems reasonable as there was a great deal of work to do that day and no one was expecting a last minute email. Organizers also insist former council member Bob Blasi had no problem with the fire.
Hanna is no longer Chamber Director. Blasi has resigned from the council. And lots of people in the community are pretty upset that a small camp fire set on a rainy day during a town celebration caused so much turmoil.