Wildland fires can spark in suburbs

Valley areas not immune to blazes

Posted 12/31/69

Hot, dry temperatures and windy conditions are a perfect recipe for fire danger as the calendar rolls into the summer months.

In northern Arizona, residents already faced a massive wildfire that …

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Wildland fires can spark in suburbs

Valley areas not immune to blazes

Posted

Hot, dry temperatures and windy conditions are a perfect recipe for fire danger as the calendar rolls into the summer months.

In northern Arizona, residents already faced a massive wildfire that started on Easter Sunday where nearby acreage and homes burned.

But Valley residents aren’t immune to potential fire dangers as this year’s wildfire season ramps up.

A single spark could ignite a blaze.

Anthem, Desert Hills and New River are places where vegetation has grown between nearby homes and businesses. That fuel can easily catch fire.

During the past three years, the Valley has seen more rain than usual, said Will Brewer, wildland liaison officer at Daisy Mountain Fire. He said the vegetation growth is “well above average” since 2020.

“Last year’s monsoon added more fuel,” Brewer said. “It’s directly related to our wet seasons we get.”

Last year, monsoon season gave Valley residents a bounty of rain. But wet weather looks to be a few months ahead rather than right around the corner.

A steady dose of rainfall won’t arrive until monsoon season, which typically starts around June 15 and ends near Sept. 30.

Many Valley neighborhoods come in contact with wildlands, from Ahwatukee and Desert Ridge in Phoenix to areas of north Glendale and north Peoria. One area lies west of Deer Valley Airport that can have high fuel in the vicinity.

Residents should get a jump start on clearing away unwanted dry brush near their homes. Fire officials recommend clearing a 30-foot distance between their home and the nearest vegetation.

Residents can do their part by clearing debris and vegetation from homes to allow crews to operate should a fire break out near structures.

“These windy days with little to no rain — things can get really volatile out there,” Brewer said.

Motorists also can help to prevent fire hazards when out in the heat this summer by not parking vehicles in dry grass on the sides of the interstate and making sure not to drag any chains on trailers, Brewer said.

At Loop 303 and Happy Valley Road, Arizona Fire & Medical Authority staff embody where the desert landscape meets up with residential homes and businesses.

AFMA crews use special brush trucks and utility terrain vehicle equipped for hauling medical response equipment in case residents need to be rescued out of a wildland area, said Vince Nielsen, wildland program manager.

Crews have gotten creative when it comes to mopping up hotspots from wildland fires, Nielsen said.

Drones with thermal imaging capabilities sense whether an area is still hot or not. Officials also use the drones for aerial views to see which direction a particular fire may be traveling, he said.

Still, residents should be careful about how to avoid potential fire hazards.

They can help by paying attention to “no burn” days as well as creating the defensive space, Nielsen said.

Desert grasses dry out easy and are quick to burn.

“The drier the fuel, the more likely it is to burn,” Nielsen said.

Brewer agrees.

Household appliances such as lawn mowers or weed wackers also can start a fire, Brewer said.

“Just that one spark and it gets away from them,” Brewer said.

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