Arizona agencies working to minimize risk after unusually high fire activity
PHOENIX — Arizona agencies are working to minimize risk after parts of the state northwest of the Valley saw unusually high fire activity in the past month.
The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management responded to three fires in April near Wickenburg and Wittmann, areas that normally don’t see much fire activity.
All three were caused by human actions — debris burning, barbecuing and welding — with the largest burning through 570 acres.
“We just want to remind people not to get complacent and just be extra careful, because we are going to see that high fire activity more in the outlying rural areas,” department spokeswoman Tiffany Davila told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.
#AZForestry determines fires in #Wickenburg #Wittmann-areas human-caused. #PaintedWagonFire – debris burn, #ForestFire– barbecue & #PattonFire – welding. Due to the abnormal amount of fires there – our Central District engine will be patrolling those areas this weekend. #AZFire pic.twitter.com/Fhil8gujTR
— AZ State Forestry (@azstateforestry) May 2, 2019
The department sent a fire behavior analyst to the scenes to evaluate the burn areas and conditions and will begin patrolling the communities this weekend.
In another effort to reduce wildfire risk, Arizona agencies are expanding the state’s Healthy Forest Initiative.
The partnership began in 2014 after the state’s largest wildfire in history, the Wallow Fire, burned through more than 538,000 acres of eastern Arizona forest.
Members include the Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, Arizona Eastern Counties Organization, Salt River Project and the timber-hauling industry.
The initiative initially eased weight restrictions on highways to help timber companies remove vegetation that could fuel fires, and it is now expanding those relaxed regulations to more roads.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, trucks will be allowed to carry up to 91,000 pounds if they have a sixth axle added, which reduces the impact on bridges and roads.
The maximum weight on most state roads is 80,000 pounds.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.