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Perfect storm ignites Arizona wildfire season

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Wallow Fire is poised to become the worst wildfire in Arizona history; Factors causing the wildfire spread include high wind, low humidity, and continued drought; Also point the finger at tree huggers opposed to forest thinning; Proper forest management (thinning) is the best route to slow wildfires.

Summer 2011 is already one of the worst wildfire seasons in Arizona history.

On June 6, the Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona became the second worst wildfire in the state’s history; engulfing about 310,000 acres with no containment yet achieved.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

The Wallow Fire will likely surpass Arizona’s all time worst fire, the Rodeo-Chedeski fire; two fires which merged together in 2004 to burn 460,000 acres of forest. One fire was set by an arsonist; the other by accident by a human. Many Arizona wildfires are caused by lightning strikes.

Smoke from the Wallow Fire is dirtying the air in five states as far east as Iowa. Heartfelt thanks go to the firefighters on the fire line diligently working to snuff out this out-of-control blaze.

The blaze has been fueled by a combination of factors. Winds up to 50 miles have pushed the flames across this segment of the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the world.

Other factors include extremely low humidity which fuels blazes. The humidity is almost always lower in the Grand Canyon State due to the arid environment. In Phoenix last month, the humidity fell to 4 percent on two occasions. The history books indicate this weather phenomenon has occurred only a handful of times in more than 130 years.

Another factor is the 14th or so consecutive year of official drought in Arizona, as proclaimed by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. While much of the nation received ample rain and snow over the last six months, Mother Nature stingily deprived Arizona of essential moisture (liquid and frozen) heading into the fire season. In thirsty Phoenix, a measly one-half inch of rain has fallen this year.

Potential relief during the summer monsoon rainy season is still more than a month away.

Let’s also point the finger where it needs pointing – at man. Over the years, tree huggers have successfully kept logging companies out of the Arizona woods. The best way to manage forests is through proper thinning. The excessive tree-hugger mentality helps spread Arizona blazes.

It’s time to properly manage forests and send the tree huggers packing. Better yet, put them to work on the fire line.

Smokey the Bear would high five the idea. 

cblake@farmpress.com

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