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Arizona officials turn to residents to aid fire-season efforts

PHOENIX — Temperatures in Arizona’s high country will be 10 to 15 degrees above normal and fire danger is expected to be boosted to “high” by Friday.

It has been a weak winter for places such as Flagstaff, which received only about 30 percent of the typical average precipitation. The timber areas did get some recent rain and snowfall but climatologist Randy Cerveny of Arizona State University said it may be too little, too late.

“It fueled more brush and grass growth and they will dry out and become very brittle. All it takes is one match or one bolt of lightning and you have a forest fire,” Cerveny said.

There are no campfire or smoking restrictions in the state’s national forests but that is expected to change sooner rather than later.

High-country homeowners have a vested interest in the upcoming wildfire season and they’re being called into the fight to add support.

Flagstaff Police Sgt. Cory Runge said residents will get a one-hour crash course on spotting wildfire activity Friday night. “Woods Watch” training will take place at at the Law Enforcement Administration Facility located at 911 E. Sawmill Road at 6 p.m. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, Flagstaff Police and U.S. Forest Service will participate.

“This is a program we developed to patrol our forests,” Runge said. “People will look for abandoned campfires and campfires that are being lit in restricted areas. They will contact us and we will investigate.”