This winter was the sixth driest on record for northern Arizona. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, managers on all area national forests are preparing for what could be a very busy fire season.
This week, forest managers upgraded fire-danger levels to moderate or high in some areas of the Coconino and Kaibab national forests. The Red Rock, Tusayan and Williams ranger districts as well as the South Rim of the Grand Canyon have all been pushed to high levels for potential wildfire.
Don Muise fire and aviation staff officer on the Coconino National Forest, says current forest conditions are far dryer than what’s normal for early spring.
“We’re probably a month ahead based on the snow pack and stuff. So, we understand that our season can hit us pretty hard and pretty fast.”
As a result, Muise says seasonal wildland firefighting staff have already been hired for this fire season.
“We’ve accelerated bringing some of those folks on a little earlier. We’re geared up so that we can be as efficient as possible to get them ready to go into the field once they do come on.”
Additionally, this week many area forest roads will reopen after annual winter closures. This will likely increase the amount of public use of national forest lands.
If dry conditions continue, forest managers say they may implement campfire and smoking bans. As a last resort for fire prevention, they could also close forests to public access. However, officials say there is no immediate plan for that option.