Wildfire Awareness Week

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ARIZONA – Governor  Jan Brewer has proclaimed the week of March 27th through April 2nd “Wildfire Awareness Week” in Arizona.  The theme for the observation this  year  is  “Where We Live, How We Live; Living with Wildfire in the Southwest.”

Southern  Arizona  has  already experienced a number of wildfires due to dryer,  warmer conditions.  The threat of wildland fire will continue to increase  into  the  central and northern parts of the state this spring and  summer  as Arizona’s forest and desert vegetation dries out.  Windy conditions  are  capable  of  driving a fire to hundreds or thousands of acres in a short period of time.

Some  wildfires  can  be  beneficial  to the landscape.  In other cases, especially  where  communities  have expanded into the wildland, fire is more  of  a  threat  and  may negatively impact the health and safety of residents.

The  theme  “Where  We  Live,  How  We  Live…Living with Wildfire in the Southwest”  reflects  not  only the benefits and the danger of wildfire, but the fact that citizens can take actions to reduce fire risk.

More  than half of all wildland fires in Arizona are human-caused.  Many start  along our roadsides as a result of discarded cigarettes, dragging chains  on vehicles pulling trailers, and car fires, for example.  Other human-caused  fires  stem from unattended campfires, debris burning, and power  tools  such  as welders and chainsaws, which emit sparks.   There are also weather-related causes of wildfire, including lightning.

State Forester Scott Hunt says Arizona’s fire season is just starting to get  underway.   “There  is still time for homeowners to inventory their property  for  fire  hazards  and  take  action to reduce wildfire risk. Clearing  combustible  vegetation is one example of what citizens can do to  make  a  difference  and  reduce  the potential for loss of life and property due to wildland fire.”

Here  are  some  additional  actions  for  homeowners  and  visitors  to Arizona’s roadways and natural resources –

Homeowners – especially those in the wildland urban interface:

·  Create a 30-foot defensible space zone around the home
·  Prune trees near structures and remove excess ground fuels such as fallen needles, cones and branches
·  Pile firewood and other flammables well away from home and other structures
·  Keep access roads free of debris and vegetation to improve access and escape in case of fire
·  Clean debris from roofs and gutters
·  Consider constructing or renovating with fire resistant building materials

Before heading out to enjoy Arizona’s natural resources:
·  Check for fire restrictions at www.publiclands.org/firenews/AZ.php
·  Be alert to weather conditions – a Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will
shortly.  A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures will create explosive fire-growth potential.
·  Use caution with power tools such as welders and chainsaws
·  Build campfires only in approved areas such as established campgrounds; bring plenty of water
·  Never leave a campfire unattended; be sure it is out and cold to the touch before leaving
·  Never park vehicles in tall grass or shrubs where a hot catalytic converter might come in contact with dry vegetation and touch off a fire
·  Never toss lit cigarettes out of cars
·  Never use fireworks on State Trust Land, in forests or on any public lands where they are prohibited

For  more  information  on wildfire prevention and living with wildfire, log on to www.wildlandfire.az.gov or www.firewise.org.

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