Is weather causing a second fire season in Ariz.?

Posted: Updated:
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

Lightning without a lot of rain appears to be a recipe for a prolonged fire season in the Tonto National Forest.

“This is the fourth year in a row when we’ve had a second fire season,” said fire Officer Clay Templin, referring to a handful of late August fires. “I’m beginning to think it’s the new normal.”

Since Friday, around 11 lightning-caused fires broke out in the Tonto National Forest. There were more than 20 checks of smoke spotted in the region. The largest fire burning remains the White Fire south of Superior, which has spread to 1,000 acres.

However, none of the fires are threatening any structures or currently spreading. All are in “monitor and mop-up stage,” according to a spokeswoman.

Resources across the Southwest are stretched with continued fires not only in Arizona, but a massive wildfire in Idaho, as well as blazes in Montana and Utah, where some of our crews have been sent to help.

“Now we’re starting to recognize we have to keep a few more resources back from national efforts because we know we have these fires,” Templin said.

According to numbers from the Southwest Coordination Center, Arizona has had around 478 lightning-caused fires, year to date; 2012 had 751. Stats show that’s actually down from years past. There were 2,172 lightning-caused fires reported in 2000.

Meteorologist Royal Norman said Arizona has had fewer and weaker thunderstorms over the past couple of years. However, the concern remains the ongoing drought, which continues to build.

As for when this fire season will wind down, fire officials can’t yet say.

“It depends on how much moisture we get,” Templin said. “If it’s still hot, we could still be doing fires in September or October.”