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Abnormally dry conditions can spark early wildfire season this year

Climate change plays a growing role
Southern Arizona’s abnormally dry conditions can result in an earlier than normal start to wildfire season and climate change is playing a growing role.
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 5:25 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Southern Arizona’s abnormally dry conditions can result in an earlier than normal start to wildfire season and climate change is playing a growing role.

“It’s not going to be uncommon that we will have large wildfires it’s almost certain during that peak time of the season,” said Dolores Garcia, the Arizona public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management.

The lush grass and greenery brought by last summer’s near record-breaking monsoon can act as the perfect fuel for fires.

“Once that dries out when you get that long period of drying that’s enough mile mass to carry a fire,” said Molly Hunter, an associate research professor at the University of Arizona.

Warmer than normal temperatures and long-term drought conditions are also stacking on. Hunter said these factors, caused by climate change, have only worsened through the years.

“That particular effect has been documented for the last two decades or so at least in terms of the lengthening fire season,” she said.

Researchers around the state are working to find ways to adapt.

“Reduce the hazard, the amount of fuel that is available for a wildfire so that it doesn’t become uncharacteristic or in a lot of cases catastrophic,” said Andrew Sánchez Meador, the Executive Director at the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University.

This includes finding ways to better manage forests and helping communities protect themselves from wildfire threats.

“If you live up on Mount Lemmon that could be thinning and prescribed burning,” Hunter said. “If you live down here on the foothills that could be removing buffelgrass on your property that is prone to burning.”

Human caused fires occur more often in the spring along with windy and dry conditions while fires caused by lightning are more likely to happen starting in June, according to the Southwest Coordination Center.

Learn methods to reduce the risk of wildfires on your property and what resources are available, here.

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