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Published August 21, 2013
Southwest Fire Summary(data through August 11)
Data Source(s): Southwest Coordination Center
A decrease in fire activity accompanies the onset of the monsoon. The median dates for the end of the peak fire season in Arizona are between July 7 and 15 in the eastern half of the state and July 15 and August 1 in the state’s western half. In New Mexico, the median dates mostly fall in the first week of July. Between 2000 and 2012, for example, only about 10 percent of the acres burned during the calendar year occurred after July.
This year, despite widespread and intense drought conditions that increased the risk of large wildland fires, the number of acres burned has been below average in both states. As of August 11, wildland fires have charred about 86,000 acres in Arizona, about 200,000 acres below the 2000–2012 average. In New Mexico, wildland fires consumed about 186,000 acres, 139,000 of which burned in the Silver Fire in the Gila National Forest. Between 2000 and 2013, about 314,000 burned on average in New Mexico. Since July 1, when monsoon activity began in earnest, only five fires have ignited in Arizona and only two in New Mexico. Each of these fires has burned less than 1,000 acres to date.
While these totals are both below average for this time of year, the 2013 fire season has been tragic. Low humidity, high temperatures and extremely dry and dense fuels created a worst-case fire scenario near Prescott, Arizona. On June 30, a passing thunderstorm abruptly reversed the wind direction and trapped 19 firefighters between two ridges; these men ultimately lost their lives in the Yarnell Fire.
Fire risk was downgraded to level 1 on July 19. Level 1 risk is present when conditions are not conducive for frequent large fire growth in most of the Southwest and normal fire-fighting staff is adequate. Level 1 usually is present during the winter or when rain conditions or green fuel conditions predominate. A level 4 risk, which was present from June 3 to July 9, occurs when large fire behavior and threats to life and property are high. In coming months, fire risk will likely not increase unless an unusually long break in the monsoon brings hot and dry conditions.
The fires discussed here have been reported by federal, state, or tribal agencies during 2013. The figures include information both for current fires and for fires that have been suppressed. The top figure shows a table of year-to-date fire information for Arizona and New Mexico. Prescribed burns are not included in these numbers. The bottom two figures indicate the approximate locations of past and present “large” wildland fires in Arizona and in New Mexico. A “large” fire is defined as a blaze covering 100 acres or more in timber or 300 acres or more in grass or brush. The name of each current fire is provided next to the symbol.
Data of year-to-date fires greater than 100 acres:
Map of year-to-date fires greater than 100 acres:
Southwest Climate Outlook Staff
- Michael Crimmins, UA Extension Specialist
- Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment Editor
- Gregg Garfin, Founding Editor, Institute of the Environment
- Zack Guido, Managing Editor, CLIMAS Associate Staff Scientist
- Nancy J. Selover, Arizona State Climatologist
- Jessica Dollin, CLIMAS Publications Assistant
- Dave Dubious, New Mexico State Climatologist
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
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