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Brain Food: Preparing For Fire Season On The Coconino

KNAU/Bonnie Stevens

More than 100 season firefighters, including 3 Hot Shot crews, 10 tower lookouts and 1 air tanker, are poised and ready for fire season on the Coconino National Forest.

This time last year, fire restrictions had already been put in place on the Coconino. In preparation for this year's fire season, wildland firefighting crews are thinning trees and burning forest debris to create strategic fuel breaks. They're designed to slow down or stop big, intense fires that burn everything from the soil to the treetops and threaten communities.

Brady Smith is a public affairs officer for the Forest Service. He says, "We have to consider the fuels in the area, how thick they are and if they've been thinned or prescribed-burned lately. And all of those things are factors in determining fire restrictions." Smith adds, "Our Hot Shot crews, those guys can be called to go wherever the incident is, and that could be California. It could be anywhere in the Southwest, not just the Coconino."

Though conditions are dry in the Southwest, Smith says they aren't at the stage yet where restrictions might be implemented on the Coconino. But, managers are constantly monitoring the forest, watching for increased fire danger and patrolling  the woods to jump on any spot fires.

"What a lot of people don't know," Smith says, "is that the Coconino National Forest - as do most forests - catch 98% of any fire starts. A lot of people don't know that because they don't hear about those things. We typically don't report those kinds of things because they're usually 1/10 of an acre of 1/4 of an acre fires. Not a big deal because we catch them. We catch them in time."

Smith adds that people can help protect forests by being careful with campfires, cigarettes and equipment like chainsaws that could spark a forest fire. He also reminds campers that it takes at least 6 gallons of water to put one campfire dead-out.