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Winter weather pattern could accelerate Arizona fire season

(National Wildfire Coordinating Group)

PHOENIX — An abnormal weather pattern could lead to more fires throughout Arizona before the peak of monsoon season, according to a Phoenix-area scientist.

“Strangely, we are in a winter weather pattern,” Arizona State University climatologist Randy Cerveny said Wednesday to KTAR News 92.3 FM. “The kinds of conditions we are getting right now are the winter-type storms that come from the west across the state.

“Right now, we don’t have any moisture for those, so the result is they’re just producing a lot of wind and that’s exactly what we don’t need with this kind of fire situation.”

Cerveny said the state is at least a couple of weeks away from its first monsoon rains. Those could be delayed because there haven’t been hot enough temperatures to trigger the change in winds necessary for the rains.

The current weather pattern plus the extent of brush because of a wet winter and spring make for ripe fire conditions.

Several fires have already burned throughout Arizona, including the Woodbury Fire that surpassed 50,000 acres Thursday.

Cerveny added that the first couple of monsoon storms will bring more dust, lightning and wind than moisture.

“The growth is really flammable,” Cerveny said. “It’s the perfect kind of fuel for decent fires.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.

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