Wildfire experts prepare for active burn season as drought continues

Mar 23, 2021, 9:15 AM

(Kelly Presnell /Arizona Daily Star via AP)...

(Kelly Presnell /Arizona Daily Star via AP)

(Kelly Presnell /Arizona Daily Star via AP)

PHOENIX – Almost unprecedented drought conditions could bring the threat of fire to all four corners of Arizona, wildfire experts said.

Nearly 85% of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought while the rest of the state is in severe or moderate drought. Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management says once the heat comes, the central and southern regions may see an early start to wildfire activity in April.

“The wild card is the upper elevations, the timber areas have very little snowpack. That’s going to come in to play as well. So we’re going to have a widespread fire season,” State Forestry spokesman John Truett said Monday.

By June, the potential for widespread fire activity exists if precipitation remains minimal through early summer.

Truett says the agency has already seen several fires of 500 acres or more this year. Last year, almost 1,000,000 acres burned across the state.

A majority of the fires burned in the desert. Truett is concerned about the deserts again.

The cooling of the Pacific Ocean known as La Nina that typically brings drier conditions to the Southwest has been at work for months and is expected to linger for the next few months.

However, early indicators point toward a timely arrival of a normal monsoon season. University of Arizona climate scientist Mike Crimmins says these current drought conditions are unique.

“It comes after last summer’s dry monsoon and relatively dry fall and winter,” he said recently.

“This isn’t the driest winter that the state has ever seen but it hasn’t been a blockbuster. Arizona is moving into its dry season, so we’re running out of time to make up the deficits. We probably won’t see any improvement with the drought until the monsoon.”

Arizona’s State University climatologist Nancy Selover said the upcoming warmer conditions will likely mean a worsening of the drought.

“The grasses will start growing after the moisture that we have had. Once the grass dries out it will be susceptible to wildfires,” Selover said late last week.

“And a lot of the larger vegetation, shrubbery and trees are still dry from last year. We really don’t have a good signal on what to expect from the monsoon.”

The forestry department recommended when people are working outdoors to pay attention to the weather.

Never burn on windy days or use equipment that can throw sparks. If using a campfire, be sure it is out and cool to the touch before leaving the area. Drown, stir, and repeat.

Secure tow chains, ensure vehicles and tires are in good working condition before getting on the road, and avoid pulling a vehicle over into tall vegetation.

Residents need to be proactive and create defensible space around their properties. Remove any dead or dying vegetation, keep lawns watered and mowed, remove flammable materials from around the exterior of the structure and remove leaves from rooftops and gutters.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Joe Biden speaking at podium next to Kamala Harris...

Kelly endorses Harris for Democratic ticket, Arizona reacts to Biden withdrawing from 2024 race

President Joe Biden announced Sunday that he will not seek reelection after his first term as commander in chief ends in January 2025. U.S. Senator Mark Kelly  (D-Arizona) endorsed Harris on X as the prevailing name on the Democratic presidential ticket.

56 minutes ago

Migrants in sitting close to each other in Mexico asylum...

Associated Press

Behind Biden’s asylum halt: Migrants must say if they fear deportation, not wait to be asked

Posters inside a complex of giant, white tents tell migrants in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Hindi they should tell an officer if they fear being deported and “your claim will be heard.”

6 hours ago

Rendering of Papago Golf House designed by Wespac Construction Inc....

Payne Moses

Construction begins on Papago Golf House, will serve many public golf organizations

Construction for the Papago Golf House is now underway, as the groundbreaking was announced by the project manager on Thursday.

8 hours ago

Keshi (Casey Luong) posing in front of BOSE sign in New York....

Payne Moses

Keshi’s ‘Requiem World Tour’ to make Glendale stop on Halloween

Keshi's "Requiem World Tour" is making its way to Diamond Desert Arena in Glendale on Oct. 31, the host venue announced Friday.

8 hours ago

Rendering of a 1.2 million-square-foot Glendale warehouse fully leased to Amazon that sold in July ...

Audrey Jensen/Phoenix Business Journal

Valley facility leased to Amazon changes hands in largest industrial sale this year

A 1.2 million-square-foot warehouse fully leased to Amazon has sold in the Valley's largest single-building industrial transaction this year.

10 hours ago

(Photos via Utah Department of Corrections via AP and via Department of Justice via AP)...

Associated Press

Utah scraps untested lethal drug combination for Arizona Hopi man’s August execution

Utah officials said they are scrapping plans to use an untested lethal drug in next month's planned execution of a man native to Hopi land in Arizona in a 1998 murder case.

19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

Wildfire experts prepare for active burn season as drought continues