AZ wildfire season to get slow start, turn severe May-June - Tucson News Now

AZ wildfire season to get slow start, turn severe May-June

Arizona fire officials are bracing for an above-normal potential for wildfires in 2015. This photo is from the Galahad Fire of June 2014. (Source: National Park Service) Arizona fire officials are bracing for an above-normal potential for wildfires in 2015. This photo is from the Galahad Fire of June 2014. (Source: National Park Service)
TOLLESON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The 2015 fire season was expected to start slow. But firefighters say just wait for it. The season will likely turn out to be pretty severe.

Already this year there have been 277 wildland fires across Arizona. That's relatively normal, and April should stay that way, officials said.

The remoteness of living next to a relatively untouched natural resource like the Gila River bed is what some long for. That is until that resource becomes a fire hazard.

"People shoot. People start bonfires, and they don't realize that even shooting a gun can cause a fire," said Alyn Bowman, who lives near 91st Avenue and Broadway Road in Tolleson.

In fact, state officials believe the so-called March 10 River Fire behind Bowman's home was human-caused.

"It burned for a couple days," Bowman said.

A new forecast from the National Interagency Fire Center for the upcoming fire season suggests areas like Bowman's will be vulnerable this year.

"That's what we would rely on and look for and plan accordingly," said Dennis Godfrey, public affairs specialist with the Arizona office of the Bureau of Land Management.

By May, going into June, the center predicts the state will see above-normal potential for wildland fires.

"Some areas have been dry and not getting the snowpack," Godfrey said.

But parts of the state got measurable rain in December and January, leading to growth of grasses the Interagency Center said will become fuel.

"Grassland fires will burn quickly and burn very hot and can be some of the most dangerous fires there are," Godfrey said.

Bowman already got her warning and is taking steps before the next big blaze.

"If people don't have their properties (kept up), it'll spread quickly," she said.

The fire center will update those predictions again for the upcoming season at the end of this month. That's also when Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will hear this season's forecast during a briefing with the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.

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