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Phoenix-area fire departments ready for wildfire season

PHOENIX — Firefighters from about two dozen Valley departments wrap up training Thursday at the Goldfield Workstation at Tonto National Forest.

Wildfire experts said Arizona is heading for an above-average season. Al DiBenedetto with Scottsdale Fire said there’s no longer an average fire season.

“The rains we’ve had this year brought a lot of growth in the desert and we didn’t get enough snowpack in the high country,” he said.

Carrie Dennett with Arizona State Forestry said the department is ready for the season.

“We have all of the firefighters and equipment we had last year. If we get more rainfall, we could see more frequent and larger fires in the desert,” Dennett said. “In the high country it all depends on if we get more snow, which appears unlikely. Typically fire season starts in May but that’s a moving target.”

United States Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has said wildfire seasons are about two months longer than they were just a decade ago and Arizona is one of the states most at risk.

According to Tidwell, conditions are similar to last year, when 9.3 million acres burned in the third-most active season since 1960.

Bark beetles have invaded 46 million acres of western forest (an area larger than the size of Missouri), which has created tinderbox conditions.