Wiederaenders: Let’s make ‘fire season’ a ‘non-event’
Smoke. Fire. Wind. Evacuations.
I was going to write that fire season is coming; well, it is here. Even though we had a wet winter, wildfire risks remain.
Just ask the firefighters who are battling the Lynx Fire this weekend, which saw campers around the Prescott-area lake evacuated Friday night.
While the campers were let back in later, fire crews – as of Saturday mid-day – had the wind-whipped blaze at 80 percent containment. It had burned 16 acres on the Prescott National Forest.
And it is only mid-April.
So, let’s call it, “Fire season comes — regardless.”
When the Prescott area experienced very little precipitation for winter 2017-18, the weeds and grasses did not grow much; however, fire seasons — also known as Fire Restrictions, or Stage I or II fire bans — were put into effect much earlier than normal. Red Flag warnings — when winds and dry conditions increase the risk and threat of fire – were commonplace in spring 2018 as well.
Makes sense, the area was already dry.
This year, the Prescott area enjoyed a healthy snow- and rainfall-filled winter. After we received more than 5 inches of the wet stuff — nearly one-third of our annual precipitation total — one would think wildfires would not be a problem.
Still, the grasses have flourished and ahead we have May and June, which are generally two of the driest of the 12 months and usually result in strict fire restrictions. A short time later we enter the monsoon pattern, which sometimes lasts much of the summer.
The moisture will come then too, during monsoons and even occasionally during May and June; but what comes with them is something called “dry lightning.” The storms can deliver rain, but the ground is often so dry it can catch fire easily.
A wet winter results in more vegetation to dry out, leaving more fuel for fires.
But let’s get this straight: Those are natural happenings. The Lynx Fire was “human caused,” according to Prescott National Forest officials.
Folks, we’re all on the same team here – if you want to live, visit or recreate here, we must all be “firewise.” While that term refers to communities and clearing property of debris and fire fuels, let’s apply it to human behavior.
Everyone needs to do their part, to make the 2019 fire season a “non-event”:
• Put out campfires. It is really simple. Double check to confirm that campfires are completely out before leaving the campsite.
• Trim your trees, cut your plants and mow your grass – creating defensible space.
• Keep flammable materials away from your property. Move wood piles, propane tanks and anything else flammable so a bad situation doesn’t get worse.
• Check your chains. A driver towing a trailer, dragging chains, can spark multiple fires. We saw that happen along Highway 69 years ago.
• Don’t test chance by tossing cigarette butts.
• Knowledge is power. Be aware of the many public resources that are available to you; visit FireRestrictions.us/az, WildlandFire.az.gov and DFFM.az.gov.
The concept of preparing for fire season should not be a strange one. Being prepared goes a long way toward keeping fire season threats under control.
And, if you don’t believe me, just ask residents of Prescott (May 2002 Indian Fire), Williamson Valley (June 2013 Doce Fire), Yarnell (July 2013), Mayer (June/July 2017 Goodwin Fire), and Lynx Lake (April 2019 Lynx Fire).
Some of these blazes were small, some out of control. Some were deadly, some very quick. They also are only five of many.
Fire season is here. Do your part.
Tim Wiederaenders is the senior news editor for Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or firstname.lastname@example.org.