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Light snowpack could mean bad news for Arizona wildfire watchers

PHOENIX — Arizona’s high country is getting hit with a winter storm but it may be too little too late to do much good against a large wildfire

About 200,000 acres of Arizona burned last year and wildfire experts are seeing a 2015 season that could light up earlier this year because of a weak snowpack.

Arizona and the Southwest escaped a potentially catastrophic season last year despite nearly 20 years of drought.

It has been a weak winter in Arizona with less than half of the typical snowpack. Even that is only found at the highest elevations.

“I see Arizona and the Southwest region, parts of Southern California being impacted by large fires as the season progresses,” wildfire expert Eric Neitzel said.

“We usually go into the teeth of fire season in May but without a wet March, we could see things light up earlier.”

In 2011 just over one million acres burned. Almost of half that went up in smoke in the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in state history.

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