Arizona Facing High Fire Danger a Year After Yarnell

Since October, we've had very low precipitation – averaging less than half of average across large portions of the state – accompanied by low snowpack and temperatures that have been well above average.

The combination of these factors, along with bursts of dry winds that are typical for the spring, gives us conditions of above-normal fire potential, which is what the Southwest Coordination Center, the main fire prediction center for our region, predicted beginning in late January.

And the setup for this year's fire season is ongoing drought, which affects every part of the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor characterizes drought in Arizona as severe across most of the state, and as extreme in Yavapai County and much of the southeastern quarter of the state.

As of June 24, Arizona wildland fire totals, not including prescribed fires, were 139,378 acres from 783 human-caused and 50 lightning-caused fires. The total acres burned thus far exceed the median acres burned for the state for the whole fire season.

In southern Arizona, we are just past the median date of peak seasonal fire danger, but the date can vary by two weeks in any given year. Peak seasonal fire danger for northwestern Arizona, including Yavapai County where the Yarnell Hill Fire occurred in 2013, is right now – June 30 through July 1 – according to maps provided by the Southwest Coordination Center. And, earlier this year, the Southwest Coordination Center predicted above normal fire potential for mid-May through mid-July, for the southeast quarter of Arizona, stretching northwest into Yavapai County.

The current "energy release component," which indicates how hot a fire could burn, is very high and is above 2013 levels across much of Arizona. This is just one measure of fire danger commonly used by fire analysts, expressing the potential intensity of a fire given the moisture content of fuels.

Read the rest of this June 30, 2014 UANews article at the link below.

Date released: 
Jul 11 2014