Rural fire districts prep for 2017 fire season - Tucson News Now

Rural fire districts prep for 2017 fire season

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
SONOITA, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

A red flag flapped in the wind outside of Sonoita-Elgin Fire District to alert people passing by that conditions were prime for a potential brush fire.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for most of Cochise and Santa Cruz counties the morning of March 28 and canceled it soon after. Rain from the night before soaked some of the dry brush and helped to drop the temperatures.

Fire Chief Joseph De Wolf with SEFD said the rain was a relief but not a reason to relax, as fire season starts to heat up in southern Arizona. He said conditions are monitored daily because they could change just as quickly.

"Right now we've lucked out," De Wolf said. "We've got some nice cool weather the rest of this week and going into the first part of next week. As we saw a week ago that could change overnight and we could be back up in the 80s."

De Wolf said 2017 hasn't been any busier than previous years, but firefighters with SEFD did respond to seven fires in less than ten days at one point. None of them were extremely large, but De Wolf said the district's 11 paid firefighters and 41 volunteers have been training in case that situation happens.

"We all become complacent because we haven't had a lot of large fires going through the area," he said.

The crews have been training on digging fire lines and deploying shelters in case of fires spreading from strong winds. De Wolfe said it's also the time of year that families and homeowners should be taking stock of their homes being protected, like clearing brush and preparing evacuation kits.

"Have your stuff ready to go," De Wolf said. "You can grab one container, put it in your vehicle and leave."

The fire chief credited surrounding departments for their support in responding to brush fires and maintaining prevention efforts. He said one day or week might be focused in his district, but all the attention will shift to a different agency when it's needed.

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