State Forest Official Predicts Dangerous Fire Season

Apr 2, 2014

The state’s top forester said today that heavy monsoon rains last year coupled with light snowpack this winter will combine to make for a more dangerous fire season this year. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

Members of the Blue Ridge Hotshots and other firefighters watch as the Yarnell Hill Fire advances, June 30, 2013.
Credit Tom Story/The Arizona Republic/AP

Scott Hunt said all that rain last year has led to what he called a bumper crop of grass, particularly in northwest and southeast Arizona.

“So we have continuous grasses in our perennial grasslands that we expect could have high potential if a fire does ignite. There won’t be much to stop it other than firefighters or major barriers out there,” Hunt said.

Hunt said these grasses also have taken hold in areas at higher elevations where there are junipers and oak trees, creating fire dangers in those areas. And, he said even the forest areas have high fire potential.

“We have large accumulations of fuels and they’re at near-record levels of dryness. The logs that are laying on the ground in the forest right now are typically drier than kiln-dried lumber you’d buy at your home center. So things are dry,” he said.

Hunt said the fire season normally starts in the southeast corner of the state in March and April and gradually moves north as the summer progresses. Under normal circumstances fire season does not hit upper elevations until late May.

“But this year, due to the dryness, we think we’re going to see fires much earlier than normal. And some of you may have seen we did actually have some fires up around Flagstaff and Sedona this weekend,” Hunt said.