Gov. Hobbs and Arizona fire officials discuss wildfire season preparations

State forest and fire management officials insist they’re doing all they can to control potential trouble spots around the state.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 1:42 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Wildfire season is almost here, and Gov. Katie Hobbs, along with the Department of Forestry and Fire Management, held a wildlife news briefing to talk about the threat Arizona faces this Spring and Summer when the weather heats up. “We’ve seen a lot of rain this year, but we know temperatures will soon start warming up, meaning we have a high likelihood for fire activity throughout our state,” Gov. Hobbs said.

State forest and fire management officials insist they’re doing all they can to control potential trouble spots around the state. “We’re doing a number of things,” said state forester Thomas Torres. “First is the reduction of those fuels around communities, especially in the forest and in other parts of state. Another thing we are doing is educating people, things people can do around houses and communities especially areas prone to wildfire.” Torres said 80% of all wildfires are caused by people.

Officials also shared safety tips to wrap up the seasonal outlook report. Among the things Arizonans can do to reduce the risk of wildfire are:

  • Never burn debris or yard waste on windy days
  • Never pull a vehicle off the road into a tall brush
  • Always put campfires out completely
  • Create defensible space around the home, cutting back trees and bushes

Another big concern this upcoming fire season is a lack of resources. A number of fire districts and response teams are significantly understaffed and in desperate need of more firefighters.

Fire Chief Scott Freitag with the Central Arizona Fire Medical Authority said they were unable to respond to half of their wildfire calls last year because of a lack of personnel. “If we are not funded, we cant respond, and we saw that last year and we’ll see it again this year,” said Freitag. “Many agencies are stretched too thin and are unable to provide initial response resources.”

According to Freitag, the Arizona Legislature has passed a number of laws in the past few years that have significantly reduced funding for wildfire response and prevention. Back in November, Arizona voters rejected Prop 310, which would have provided more funding for Arizona fire districts.

Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor updated Arizona’s short-term drought conditions with a decrease of 4% in the “abnormally dry” category, but another 25% of the state remains an “abnormally dry” state. With regard to snowpack, Arizona’s is at its 4th highest season-to-date level since record-keeping started in 1987. “While the snow and rain have helped significantly, the potential for large-scale, possibly long-duration incidents exists in southern Arizona due to the overgrowth of fine fuel such as grasses and brush,” said DFFM Fire Management Officer John Truett.

While there are no restrictions in place so far, it is up to everyone to prevent wildfires by paying attention to the weather, being aware of their surroundings, putting out all campfire and fire pit blazes, and more.

You can stay up to date on Arizona’s drought conditions by downloading our First Alert Weather app. You can check rainfall totals, view current conditions, and much more. Click/tap here.