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Fri, Oct. 18

Unusual lightning sparks small wildfire near Prescott; excessive heat warning starts today

Courier file illustration

Courier file illustration

With an unusually high amount of May rain continuing to keep wildfire danger levels lower than average, an unusual spate of lightning in the Prescott area Saturday afternoon sparked only one wildfire on the Prescott National Forest.

Forest firefighters and fellow agencies held the Iron wildfire to only 1.25 acres, Prescott National Forest Assistant Fire Staff Officer Jeff Andrews said, and it was the only lightning-sparked wildfire on the forest that day. It was spotted in the Iron Springs/Doce Pit area west of Prescott shortly after noon. Light rain also fell on some parts of the Prescott Basin this weekend.

Forest firefighters also had to extinguish six abandoned campfires in the Prescott Basin Friday-Sunday.

The forest normally would have some kind of fire-use restrictions by now, but they aren't in the works. "The live fuel moistures are still pretty high," even continuing to set some daily records for low wildfire danger, Andrews said.

However, grasses could dry out pretty quickly with the forecast for sunny weather in the 90s throughout this week. Problems with illegal campfires also can be a factor in officials' decisions about whether to implement fire-use restrictions.

The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat watch for parts of Arizona, including the Yavapai County valleys and basins below 4,000 feet in elevation, today through Sunday. Afternoon highs could reach 103 to 108 degrees. People who are working or playing outdoors, as well as people without air conditioning in their homes, will face an elevated risk of heat-related illnesses, the Weather Service warned.

May registered triple its average rainfall with 1.48 inches in Prescott, but so far June has produced only 0.02 inches. The 117-year average for June is 0.38 inches, the lowest monthly average of the year. May also was unusually cool, with the average high and low temperatures 6 degrees and 2 degrees below average respectively.

This week the region will see its warmest temperatures of the year so far, which is typical in June preceding the monsoon. Lightning storms, sometimes without rain, usually move into this region in late June as monsoon cloud buildup begins. The annual monsoon generally arrives in early July.

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