Controlled burn in Sweetwater wetlands

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's an annual event, and it still catches the eye when you see it, if you could see it Monday.  High winds put a quick end to the controlled burn of the Sweetwater wetlands.

Tucson Fire is used to putting fires out, not starting them.

"We don't typically go around lighting fires," said Captain Trish Tracy from the Tucson Fire Department.

But Monday was a little different.  Joining with Tucson Water, the Fire Department set certain parts of the Sweetwater wetlands a blaze Monday morning.

"If we didn't burn this vegetation off once a year the mosquitoes would become worse during the year," said hydrologist Bruce Prior.

The wetlands harbor acres of bull rush and cat tail plants and are breeding grounds for mosquitoes when the temperature and humidity rise. 

Tucson Water, the owner of the wetlands, puts a stop to that before it begins.

"For Tucson Water it's a facet of our mosquito abatement program where the vegetation they're burning off today later in the season becomes prime mosquito habitat," said Prior.

And it's good for the overall health of the wetlands.  Too much vegetation and the water supply is choked.

Residents in the area lit up the 911 call center reported the annual blaze which has happened now for the past 10 years, but there's nothing harmful about this fire.

"This is like a large camp fire, we are not burning any toxic materials.  This is similar to a huge camp fire," said Tracy.

As fast as it started, the show is quickly over.  High winds put a stop to it later in the day.

Tucson Water and fire department are planning to resume the burn later this week. They still have a couple of large patches of vegetation to take care of.