Editorial: Wildland fire season ahead!

Each year we echo the concerns over the pending wildland fire season. In fact, authorities now consider Arizona to have conditions ripe for wildland fires year-round.

But these are not only fires in the forests; we all must be careful within the cities, towns and developed areas.

The wet monsoon of 2021’s summer helped re-grow the grasses and bushes that we fear will catch fire. Add to that the not-so-great winter and dry spring, heading into the summer of 2022, resulting in a “very extreme” potential for wildfires this year, according to the state’s fire management officer.

“The above-normal rainfall we had through the monsoon season and the above-normal rainfall we had in December, have put a lot more vegetation and a lot more growth onto our vegetation,” John Truett said this past week. “Then we had the drier-than-normal conditions the last three months which now has dried out all those fuels to be available for wildland fires.”

And, sadly, he noted, the extreme drought throughout the West has left Arizona in “heavy competition” with other federal, state and local agencies to find qualified people to fight those fires. “We’re having a hard time filling our vacancies. … We just don’t have enough folks that are willing to come out and do the job that we do.”

That leaves all of us working together to stop fires from starting in the first place, including:

  • The normal warnings about burning on windy days;
  • Make sure if you’re towing a trailer that the chains are not scraping the ground and causing sparks (simply twist the chains to shorten them);
  • Do not pull a vehicle into high grasses where its hot underside could ignite materials;
  • Do not toss cigarettes or other items that can start a fire;
  • Make sure your campfire or fires from burn permits are dead-cold-out when done;
  • And, most importantly, reduce hazardous vegetation, creating defensible space around your home (clear 20 to 30 feet around it of vegetation). Do it now, before we have restrictions.

The state is working to do the same, treating about 4,000 to 5,000 acres a year, with a goal of 20,000 acres in 2022. For the U.S. Forest Service, those would be “prescribed burns,” which are not popular for their smoke but do well to reduce dead and down debris that could fuel a fire.

The state is putting inmates to work, as well as offering $17 million in a revolving fund to reimburse local fire departments that help respond to wildfires.

Still, all of this is directly dependent upon Mother Nature bringing precipitation, which climate change has not helped; other parts of the country are getting more of the wet storms we used to enjoy. And remember that May and June are historically the driest months of the year.

However, let’s not forget that most fires we experience are human-caused. As “Smokey the bear” always said, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

For more information, visit the following internet sites:

  • Prescott Fire: https://www.prescott-az.gov/services-safety/fire/
  • Central Arizona Fire: https://www.cazfire.org/prevention/fire-safety-tips/
  • Prescott National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/prescott/
  • Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission: https://yavapaifirewise.org/

Thank you.

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