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Coronavirus complicates preparations for Arizona’s wildfire season

(KTAR News File Photo/Jim Cross)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s wildfire season could ignite in just a few weeks, and steps are being taken to protect firefighters from coronavirus.

Arizona Forestry and Fire Management spokeswoman Tiffany Davila said Thursday dispatchers will be isolated and there will be daily health checkups, including temperature checks, for firefighters and other personnel.

“Trucks will also be sanitized daily along with equipment and making sure they are deep-cleaned after each incident,” she said.

“It’s imperative now more than ever that people do everything possible to prevent wildfires. Social distancing within fire camps will be in place.”

Forestry and Fire Management expects another potentially active fire season in certain parts of the state with conditions almost a mirror image of what Arizona saw last year. The big winter rain and snow increased the grass load in the central region of Arizona down throughout the Sonoran Desert.

“Places like Wickenburg and Wittmann and other desert areas with an abundance of grasses are at a higher risk for wildland fires,” Davila said.

“Last year, 1,867 wildland fires burned nearly 400,000 acres of private, state, federal and tribal lands. Seventy-eight percent of those fires were human caused.”

Last year also brought the fifth largest wildfire in Arizona history. The Woodbury Fire ignited in the Superstitions northwest of Superior and burned almost 125,000 acres.

It was a serious threat to hundreds of homes, major power transmission lines and mining operations among other targets. No homes or structures were lost, but the fire forced hundreds of evacuations in the Roosevelt Lake area and came within feet of many homes.

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