As we’ve already seen, the Southwest Coordination Center is forecasting an above-average fire year in our region with fire risk high. High temperatures, plenty of dry fuel, and constant winds this summer are making the difficult work of containing Arizona’s fires that much more challenging.
Explains Arizona Farm Bureau President Stefanie Smallhouse, “Ranchers play a pivotal role in managing fire. First, managed grazing prevents fuel build up. Plus, ranch water infrastructure aids in fighting wildfires, ranchers are familiar with the terrain and roads in areas where little is known, and cooperation with firefighters makes everyone’s efforts to stop fires more effective.”
Smallhouse shares some little-known facts on the issue.
- 90% of wildfires are human-caused, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
- During 2018 and 2019, there were more than 108,000 fires that burned over 13 million acres, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
- The largest fire in Arizona history was the Wallow Fire in 2011, burning 538,049 acres.
- Benefits of periodic, smaller wildfires are significant:
- 1) prevent catastrophic fires from happening through the control of fuel buildup;
- 2) recycle nutrients back into the soil;
- 3) can improve watershed health.
- Catastrophic wildfires are a danger to human life and property, cause long-term resource damage, destroy ranching infrastructure, and endanger livestock.
Although we have seen fires persist for long periods of time already this season, the Southwest Coordination Center has provided the following information regarding fighting fire in a COVID 19 environment.
- Tactics to fight fire amid the COVID 19 environment are in place:
- 1) fires will be put out quickly rather than letting some burn out;
- 2) in some areas prescribed burns have been canceled;
- 3) firefighters will be screened for signs of COVID 19;
- 4) fire camps will look much different;
- 5) crews will be isolated from other crews;
- And, 6) limiting crew members in vehicles.
Fire can be an important tool for resource management. Whether planned or unplanned, it is vitally important for safety, natural resource management and the livelihoods of those impacted to recognize and respect local land uses and expertise. During this summer season, remember to check fire restrictions and report spot fires to authorities you may observe.