With abnormally dry weather conditions in Southern Arizona this year, experts believe that wildfires will begin much earlier than in past years. Experts also note that climate change is playing an important role in the earlier start to wildfire season.
Dolores Garcia, a Bureau of Land Management Arizona public affairs specialist, noted that it is fairly certain we will see “large wildfires” during the peak season this year.
Last summer, Arizona had a monsoon season that was close to breaking many records. Though we had the monsoons to thank for the lush greenery and grass, these elements now act as potential fuel for this wildfire season.
A University of Arizona associate research professor, Molly Hunter, noted that this greenery will eventually reach a “long period of drying.”
During this long period, this dry grass will create enough “mile mass to support a fire.”
Beyond the drying greenery, temperatures are hotter than normal, and drought conditions are stretching into longer terms than usual. According to Hunter, these factors are also consequences of climate change that have gotten worse as the years have gone on.
For this reason, fire seasons have gotten longer over the past two decades. Researchers have even documented these events and their causes.
Now, scientists are looking for ways that Arizona can adapt to mitigate these fires.
Andrew Sanchez Meador, the Northern Arizona University Ecological Restoration Institute’s Executive Director, said that the main goal is to lessen the “amount of fuel” available for the wildfires. In doing so, we can lessen the hazard and keep these fires from becoming catastrophic or uncharacteristic.
One of the ways researchers are looking to mitigate fires is by managing forests better. Beyond that, they are also looking for new ways to educate communities so people can better protect themselves in the case of fires.
Hunter noted that people who live on Mount Lemmon, for example, could consider prescribed burning and thinning of dry foliage. On the other hand, people who live down in the Arizona foothills could potentially remove buffelgrass on their properties, as this type of grass can burn very easily.
Fires caused by humans often occur more in the spring, as conditions become windier and brush becomes drier. However, according to the Southwest Coordination Center, fires that are caused by lightning often happen during June when the rainy season comes about.
Wildfires In Prescott and Flagstaff
Just this past week, two Arizona wildfires consumed more than 7,600 acres of land, one of which was near Flagstaff and the other of which was near Prescott.
Federal forecasters noted that a fair portion of the Southwest, including portions of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado, should prepare for critical fire risks due to “summer-like” warmth and gusty winds.
Arizona residents were told not to heat fires as of this past Tuesday, as red flag conditions were put out throughout the state. As of now, the two wildfires are still under investigation, and there are no known causes.
Those looking to stay updated on the wildfires can visit the Arizona Emergency Information Network.