Arizona seeing more large wildfires since the 1970s

Published: Sep. 2, 2015 at 12:42 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2018 at 5:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - While Arizona has experienced a mild wildfire season thanks to surges of tropical moisture keeping monsoon downpours in the forecast, the story is just the opposite for much of the western U.S. According to Climate Central, wildfires in western states have burned more than seven million acres this year. That is the most in the past 10 years. 

In Arizona, the number of wildfires has seen a general upward trend since the 1970s. This may be linked to the warmer average seasonal temperatures associated with climate change. Combining those warmer temperatures with the current drought conditions in the western U.S. raises the wildfire threat. But the 1970s was also when the U.S. Forest Service changed the policy from aggressively fighting each fire to letting some wildfires burn as long a structures and lives were not impacted.

The number of acres burned has increased slightly over the years since 1970 in Arizona. The spike in 2011 was due to the Wallow Fire, located in the White Mountains. It was the largest wildfire in state history burning more than 530,000 acres.

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