Officials Issue Warnings as Wildfire Season Approaches

Rattlesnake Fire in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests
The Rattlesnake Fire burned 26,000 acres in Eastern Arizona last year. | Courtesy of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

Governor Doug Ducey and other Arizona officials are warning that the recent wet winter could still be followed by a devastating wildfire season.

As The Arizona Republic and other outlets reported, recent high levels of precipitation in Arizona mean most of the state is not currently experiencing drought conditions — which contributed to last year's early star to the wildfire season. But more precipitation also means more vegetation growth, and that vegetation can quickly dry out and become potential wildfire fuel.

John Truett, an official with the Department of Forestry and Fire Management, said at a news conference with Ducey that the upcoming season could be compared to 2005, which also followed a wet winter. That year, a lightning strike started the Cave Creek Complex Fire, a 248,000-acre blaze that was the third-largest in state history, on the outskirts of Phoenix.

Truett urged homeowners in wildfire-prone areas to do their part by creating a defensible space, free of debris and vegetation, around their property. And Ducey asked Arizonans to stay vigilant and not contribute to the problem by causing wildfires.

Last year, large swaths of Arizona's national forests were closed for parts of the season to prevent human-caused wildfires. Officials said those closures likely kept 2018 from becoming one of the most devastating fire seasons in recent years.

If you're heading into the forest this summer, make sure you know the principles of minimizing campfire impacts, courtesy of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. 

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