Forest Service officials report significant die-offs of juniper trees due to drought conditions affecting large areas of forest in central and northern Arizona.
Between 50,000 acres and 100,000 acres have been affected on areas of the Prescott and Kaibab national forests between Paulden and Ash Fork and north of Williams. There have been scattered observations of insects on dead trees, but forest officials say drought is likely the initial cause of the die-offs. Trees impacted by drought show a change in color of their needle-like scales, with branch tips fading from green to a bright yellow.
Meanwhile, fire managers with the Coconino National Forest are conducting prescribed burns today about 15 miles north of Flagstaff. Smoke may be visible in the area for several days. A separate burn is also scheduled today northwest of Clints Well. On Friday, another prescribed burn is planned on the Red Rock Ranger District southeast of Sedona. The National Weather Service has issued wind advisories and Red Flag Warnings in recent days. Gusts are expected throughout the day today, increasing Friday afternoon and into the weekend. Prescribed burns are a mitigation strategy to cut down on the potential for catastrophic wildfires.