Warm, dry winter puts all of Arizona in wildfire danger zone

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Arizona's incredible winter weather comes at a price. State fire experts warn that a major blaze could spark anywhere and at any time.

"It’s beautiful but at the same time, a little rain would be nice," said Kathi Marston.

Marston, a Valley native, just bought a home located on the side of Piestewa Peak in Phoenix. The incredible view from her backyard also reveals an overlooked danger, a dried-up wash.

"It looks overgrown. This tree has been trimmed. It has branches down there, and it has all kinds of grass and dry brush in here that’s growing," said Marston.

With the smallest spark, this terrain is prime for a wildfire to erupt.

"We always are blessed with a very nice winter season here, but this is becoming alarming. We haven’t had any precipitation for probably the last six months," said Jeff Whitney, Arizona State Forester and Fire Marshal.

According to Whitney, wildfire season ends with the onset of the monsoon, but with very little rain, that didn't happen in 2017, so the season rages on.

In fact, a blaze ignited without any warning Thursday in southeastern Arizona, just north of Willcox.

"By the time our first people were on scene, it was a couple of acres, and then there was a report that it was 10 to 20 acres, and they finally captured it and put a line around it at about 56 acres, but that was in the space of less than 90 minutes and we lost a home," said Whitney.

Besides in the high country, Whitney warns homes along Valley mountain preserves like the McDowells, South Mountain, the White Tanks, or along washes are at greatest risk for an explosive inferno.

"We’re quite concerned right now, so we’re asking everybody to do everything that they possibly can to take care of their property and to work in their neighborhoods across the state at all elevations. There isn’t a community in the state that isn’t vulnerable to the threat of wildfire," said Whitney.

So what can homeowners do? First, evaluate your yard.

"If you’ve got weeds or tall grass, if you’ve got debris, if you’ve got a woodpile, move it away from the house," said Whitney.

Keep trees and shrubs around the home trimmed. If a fire should spark, have a plan of action.

"You really want to get your family documents and your pictures and your pets and be able to evacuate the scene if you’re asked to very quickly," said Whitney.

"We saw what was going on in California. It was horrific. We don’t want that to happen to anyone here either," said Marston.

For more information on how to protect your property from wildfire, go to https://dffm.az.gov/fire/prevention/firewise.

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