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Arizona Fire Officials Predict Early And Active Wildfire Season

Coconino County

State fire officials and Governor Doug Ducey say the upcoming wildfire season could be early and potentially active. The remarks come after one of the driest years on record in the state. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The governor and officials with the Department of Forestry and Fire Management at a briefing Monday said the central and southern portions of the state could see an early onset of wildfires. Almost all of Arizona remains in severe drought, and according to fire officials, if precipitation doesn’t increase by June, widespread fire activity is possible. Heavy grasses in unburned areas could also provide wildfire fuel.

“We all have a role to play in protecting our forests and communities and minimizing the risk of wildfires,” said Ducey during Monday's briefing. “It’s important to be responsible and use common sense precautions to help prevent wildfires, like ensuring your fire is out cold before walking away and remembering it is illegal and dangerous to fly a drone near a wildfire. My thanks to firefighters across the state and everyone working to protect our people, pets and property.”

In northern Arizona snowstorms in January and March reinforced the snowpack on the San Francisco Peaks. But that hasn’t made up for the area’s driest year on record in 2020 when Flagstaff received less than half of its average yearly precipitation.

A spokesperson with the Coconino National Forest says officials are discussing the possibility of again putting an early campfire ban in place. They’re also in talks about potential forest or area closures if it becomes necessary.

Last year was one of Arizona’s worst recorded fire seasons with more than 2,500 wildfires scorching nearly 980,000 acres of federal, state and tribal lands. More than 80% were human caused.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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