In northern Arizona, the Heber-Overgaard Fire Department’s crews worked hard to fight a wildland fire, which grew to cover almost 300 acres earlier this month.
The fire tripled in size over the period of an hour, and has been dubbed the “Phoenix Fire” by firefighters. The flames reportedly died down because of high humidity and lower temperatures.
Although the cause and exact location of the fire could not be confirmed, smoke could be seen from Highway 377, and officials stated that the fire was located in a “Phoenix park wash area.”
This fire signals the beginning of a critical period in northern Arizona, during which the amount of precipitation received will set the tone for the upcoming fire season.
“We do have a lot of light fuels from last year’s rains that we had. So there is a lot of grass out there and it is very dry,” said Iris Esteves of the Apache Sitgraves Forest Service.
Although the projected strong El Nino brought significant snow in January, it fizzled out by February, leaving plenty of time for fire fuels like grasses to dry out.
Indeed, Robert Bohlin of the National Weather Service said, “The key to fire season in the southwest is always the last couple weeks of March and the first couple weeks in April.”
The danger of wildfires, which are nature’s way of clearing dead brush to make way for new plants, is that they can spread to houses and other structures, often causing irreparable damage. For instance, every year, hotel and motel fires result in $76 million in property loss.
The National Weather Service says that precipitation is expected to pick up in the next couple of weeks, which would encourage green grass growth and discourage fires.