Over the weekend, crews battled the first major wildfire of the year in northern Arizona. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, just days before the fire broke out both of the state’s U.S. senators urged the federal government to fast-track thinning projects.
Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake asked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Villsack to speed up fuel-reduction and thinning projects in 10 areas of Arizona’s national forests. According to the Arizona Republic, the senators want more than 180,000 acres to be earmarked for insect and disease treatment. Drought and bark-beetle infestations have dramatically raised wildfire danger, especially in northern Arizona.
This weekend, crews battled the Fisher Fire, which burned 175 acres of Walnut Canyon southeast of Flagstaff. High winds and low humidity have made area forests especially vulnerable to wildfire.
Justin Johndrow is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.
“Temperatures have been above normal also so that does tend to dry things out … But, we do know that normally the precip amounts drop off pretty quickly as we head into May and especially June.”
Officials say wildfire season is about a month early this year on the heels of one of the driest winters on record for the state.