Last week, lightning ignited a wildfire on Finger Rock in the Catalinas. The rains kept it down for a couple of days, but then it flared up again. It grew to 750 acres before the rains beat it down again.
When I was driving north on Alvernon the other day it seemed to be floating in the night sky like a low-flying galaxy. Spectacularly beautiful!
But spectacularly dangerous too. The Finger Rock fire is in a remote area and does not pose a threat, but in 2008, the hamlet of Summer Haven on top of Mt. Lemon was laid to waste by a wildfire, and in 2013, 19 firefighters lost their lives combatting a wind-driven wildfire near Prescott, that destroyed some 8,800 acres.
We’re in the middle of the fire season. Even though we have had more than average rainfall, conditions are very dry and the fire hazard is extreme.
Wildfires are part of nature; they have been around ever since there has been stuff dry enough to ignite; they are beneficial, because they remove the deadwood and make room for new growth for which the ashes supply the nutrients.
Natural wildfires are caused by lightning, but nowadays a good part of them are caused by human activity. A single cigarette butt tossed out of the car window can be the start of a major disaster. Wildfires can be sparked by metal agains stone – a safety chain dangling from a hitch, a lawn mower hitting a rock.
Human activity is largely to blame for a major increase in wildfire intensity since the beginning of the century. Before then, wildfires burned an average of 3.3 million acres a year; since then, that number has doubled. At the same time, the number of fire fighters has dropped by 5% nationally, on account of budget cuts.
So an ounce of prevention is now worth more than a pound of cure. Do not discard your cigarette unless you’re sure there is no life left in it – and preferrably in a suitable container. Watch out with the lawn mower and stow away the tire and safety chains. Do not park your car on or near dry grass, as the heat from the exhaust may ignite it. Bad for your car, too!
When camping, do not light a fire when conditions are windy and never leave it unattended. And remember that when it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!
For detailed information on wildfires, including regularly updated information on current wildfires, fire restrictions and prevention, visit wildlandfire.az.gov.
This site also gives tips on protecting your home, including landscaping with fire-resistant plants.
And please report all wildfires to 911.
Only you can prevent wildfires, says Smokey Bear, who, in addition to the President, is the only individual to have his own zipcode: 20252.