From the desert floor to the cool pines of the high country, Arizona is blooming thanks to a wet winter. While pretty to look at, fire officials are cautioning that all of the growth now will likely lead to above normal chances for fire activity this summer.
“We’re seeing a lot of the grasses and wildflowers start to come out, but when they dry out that creates what we call a fuel. The potential to burn,” said Michelle Fidler, spokesperson for the National Park Service.
Fire authorities say the magic number for fires seems to be 90 degrees. That’s when grasses, wildflowers and other growth can go from beautiful to fire fuel.
“This time of year we start to see a lot of roadside fires,” explained Fidler. “People parking on that tall, dry grass, with the underside of their car hot enough to spark a wildfire.”
Authorities say now is the time for action.
They urge people to clear grasses, brush and other potential fire fuel from around their homes and property. Doing so creates a defensible space for firefighters should a wildfire ignite.
Officials emphasize the role of prevention when it comes to stopping fires before they start.
“One of the most important things people can do is to avoid parking on tall, dry grass,” said Fidler.
“Look for a parking area or a cleared area and a safe area where it’s barren of that vegetation so there’s no contact to create a spark,” added Fidler.
In 2016, more than 293,000 acres burned across Arizona–the most since 2011. That year more than 1 million acres went up in flames, according to National Interagency Fire Center.
The National Interagency Coordination Center predicts most of Arizona will have an “above normal” potential that a significant wildland fire will occur beginning in June.