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Battle-tested Arizona firefighter says 2020 season unlike any other

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – It has been the hottest and driest summer in Arizona history, courtesy of a very weak monsoon.

Almost 900,000 acres burned in the state this year in a fire season that continues weeks beyond when Arizona sees its worst wildfire conditions in June and July.

Arizona Forestry and Fire Management Battalion Chief Joe Barreras has been on 53 fires this year.

“I’ve been fighting fires in Arizona since 1998 and I’ve never experienced a year as busy as this,” he said.

And unless the state sees significant rainfall soon, which is unlikely, he expects that Arizona could be dealing with fires in October and maybe even November.

One of things he’s proudest of this year, he said, is knowing that thousands of firefighters have saved almost every home during a summer that brought two of the largest fires in state history.

The 194,000-acre Bush Fire northeast of the Valley became the fifth-largest fire in Arizona, and the Bighorn Fire became No. 7 after roaring through about 120,000 acres in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson.

“It’s very gratifying to have that success rate and we’ve had a very good effort between us, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and all of the cooperators,” he said.

“(Local firefighters and law enforcement included). I think that’s the key to our success this year. Everybody’s dedication.”

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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