Officials warn of fiery wildfire season with most fires caused b - Tucson News Now

Officials warn of fiery wildfire season with most fires caused by humans

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Coronado National Forest service officials are warning residents about an extremely fiery season ahead.  Crews have already responded to twenty wildfires in the district since January 1st.

Heidi Schewel, a public affairs officer for the forest service said 19 of those fires were human caused, one was caused by lightning.

Abandoned campfires were the main culprit of human caused fires.

Forest service officials said conditions across the Coronado this fire season indicated an above average potential for large wildfire, due to a number of factors that included the on-going drought, availability and continuity of fine fuels, and expected weather conditions.

"All human caused fires are preventable," said Schewel.

During a media tour on Monday, forest service firefighters showed us how to start and put out a campfire safely.

Kristina Rask a forest service firefighter said close to half of all the fires they responded to were caused by careless humans.

Officials said before you start a campfire, know before you go.  Check to see if any fire restrictions are in place.  If it is windy, do not start a campfire.  Make sure you rake the ground and clear the area of all fine fuels, before starting the fire. Also make sure you don't start it anywhere with overhanging branches. Keep the fire within a ring flanked by metal or rocks.  Do not use logs that are bigger than that fire ring.

When you are leaving, make sure you spare enough time to put out the campfire.  It could take ten to twenty minutes to put out the fire correctly.  Have enough water on hand, and if you don't have water officials advised using dirt.

Rask used five gallons of water to put out the campfire she set to show us as a demonstration.  She doused the flames with water, then used a shovel to mix around the dirt, creating a slush.  Then doused it with more water, and mixed it around with a shovel.  She repeated the steps several times. 

"You have to make sure it is cold to the touch," said Rask.  For the final step, she removed her glove and put her hand close to the ashes and mud to feel the temperature.   Rask said the area should be cool enough to touch, before you take off from the campsite. 

Officials said make sure you put out the fire even if you're leaving for a short hike.

The Tucson Fire Interagency dispatch center was already very busy for this time of year.  Dispatchers had handled 275 calls since January 1st. 

The agency handled calls for the forest service, the bureau of land management, the bureau of Indian affairs, US fish and wildlife, National Park service, and all wildfires on private land as well.

Chuck Holt, the dispatch center manager said they got prepared for the busy fire season by opening up an extended dispatch center, and doubling up on staff. 
"To even be considered for a job in dispatch you have to have ground firefighting experience," said Holt.

Other ways people could start wildfires included things like mowing and striking your blade on a rock, parking your car on dry grass where the catalytic converter could spark a fire, flat tires, and dragging tow trucks behind trailers could also spark wildfires.

Coronado National forest service officials hoped to raise awareness about wildfire prevention by launching a campaign called "One less spark, one less wildfire." 

You can get more information and tips on the upcoming fire season on the forest service website at www.fs.usda.gov/coronado.

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