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Official: Fire conditions similar to Rodeo-Chediski summer

PHOENIX — Arizona is on track for summer conditions similar to those that saw the Rodeo-Chediski Fire burn almost 500,000 acres in 2002, a state forest official said.

The Rodeo-Chediski Fire burned almost a half-million acres in June and July of 2002 and Arizona State Forester Scott Hunt said the vegetation in some Arizona locations is at near-record dry levels after our third straight dry winter.

“Much of the state has had less than 50 percent of its average snowpack,” he said. “Flagstaff is at about 35 percent. Pinetop and Payson are at about 20 percent of the snowpack they should have received. Last year’s robust monsoon created a bumper crop of grass and brush, especially in southeast and northwest Arizona.”

Hunt said the logs laying on the forest floor right now are drier than dried lumber you find in the home improvement stores.

Nine of the states top 10 largest wildfires have burned since 2002. Last year was the deadliest fire season on record in the state when 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died in the Yarnell Hill Fire.

Hunt said he has the money and the manpower to battle the wildfires and will be able to call in resources from other states if needed.

“My fire suppression fund is at $4 million,” he said. “We feel like we’re in pretty good shape going into this fire season.”

Hunt will also have Arizona Department of Public Safety and National Guard helicopters at his disposal along with almost 20 airtankers that can be brought in to help in the fight.