/ Modified mar 31, 2017 9:48 a.m.

Wet Winter Stocks Fuel for Fire Season in Southern Arizona

Precipitation leads to more fine fuels and grasses, and more risk of quick-spreading fire.

Wallow fire The Wallow Fire burns in the distance, in 2011.
Michel Marizco, Fronteras Desk


A wet winter means fire season is expected to start later than usual in Arizona’s mountains, but southern Arizona is a different story.

Meteorologists expect southern Arizona and New Mexico to be warm, dry and breezy in the coming weeks, creating the conditions for above-normal fire potential as early as June.

The wetter winter encouraged more grass, what fire managers call “fuel.”

“The fine fuels and grasses we’ve grown as result of some wet periods, including this past summer’s monsoon, have certainly increased the fine-fuel loading,” said Chuck Maxwell, a meteorologist with the Southwest Coordination Center in Albuquerque.

That means fires will ignite and spread more quickly. On the other hand, Maxwell said drought in the Southwest is not nearly the problem that it was four or five years ago. He expects another wet monsoon this summer.

Fronteras Desk
This story is from the Fronteras Desk, a collaboration of Southwestern public radio stations, including NPR 89.1. Read more from the Fronteras Desk.
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