Wildfire forecast for Spring 2014 - Tucson News Now

Wildfire forecast for Spring 2014

Source: Associated Press Source: Associated Press

We all know that wildfires are common out west and especially in Arizona with rough terrain and dry/hot conditions. This year especially can be a very rough year with some of the driest conditions we have seen. Back in November/December we had a few good winter storms move in and dump a lot of precipitation in the state. This allowed growth of grasses and other fire fuels. These grasses dried up once we hit February due to the lack of moisture we have seen this year.

Typically Arizona has two phases during the fire season which runs from April to July. The First phase is April and May which fuels fires by strong gusty winds produced by low pressure systems passing to our north. These systems are typically extremely dry for the state and can produce some of the strongest winds we see all year. The second phase occurs in June and early July: High pressure sets up over the west and causes our temperatures to exceed 100°. Along with the hot temps we start to see dry thunderstorms allowing lightning strikes to ignite the hot/dry fuels on the ground.

The Above image shows conditions typically found in April/May.
Below are conditions typically found in June and July.

The current outlook for 2014 is for Arizona to have an average fire season. This is thanks to the prolonged drought we have been in, dead vegetation currently on the ground and the lack of snow pack in the higher terrains. Bad news for California is that this year can be an active year for them as the current forecast puts them in the highest risk.

Here is a list of some of the worst fires in the state's history:

2013-Yarnell Hill Fire: Killed 19 firefighters but was only 8,500 acres.
2011-Wallow Fire: Largest fire in Arizona history, 538,000 acres burned in the White Mountains.
2011-Horseshoe 2 Fire: 5th largest, 223,000 burned acres in the Chiricahua Mountains.
2005-Cave Creek Complex Fire: 3rd largest, 244,000 acres burned after two wildfires merged north of Phoenix.
2004-Willow Fire: 4th largest, 119,500 acres burned near Payson. 
2003-Aspen Fire: 84,800 acres burned on top of Mount Lemmon destroying 325 structures.
2002-Rodeo-Chediski Fire: 2nd largest fire in Arizona history, burned 468,600 acres in the White Mountains. Started by a seasonal firefighter looking for work.

Image of the Horseshoe 2 Wildfire from the International Space Station.
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