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Published May 23, 2012
Southwest Fire Summary(data through 5/17/12)
Data Source(s): Southwest Coordination Center
Above-average temperatures, combined with below-average precipitation during the winter and spring, have caused dry, fire-ready conditions across much of the Southwest. Grasses, shrubs, and trees have extremely low moisture levels, making them prone to ignite. Recent strong wind events also have heightened the threat for the spread of wildfires.
About 34,000 acres have burned in Arizona and New Mexico since January 1 (Figure 9a). This is the time of year when the fire season ramps up, and several wildfires greater than 100 acres are burning across central Arizona and western New Mexico (Figures 9b–c). While wildfires often occur throughout the year, there is generally an increase in the number of fires starting in April and May concomitant with the historical occurrence of rising temperatures and windy and dry weather. The two largest wildfires in the Southwest are located in the central part of Arizona. The Sunflower Fire began on May 12 from unknown causes about 30 miles north of Mesa. As of May 22, more than 16,000 acres had burned and the fire was only 43 percent contained. The Gladiator Fire ignited from human causes on May 13 on private property in Crown King. The fire had burned more than 15,000 acres as of May 22 and was spreading across Prescott National Forest.
Between January 1 and May 15, 440 fires burned nearly 25,000 acres in Arizona, according to Predictive Services at the Southwest Coordination Center. Most of these fires scorched fewer than 100 acres and are therefore not reflected in Figure 9. In New Mexico, 228 fires have burned this year, charring more than 9,000 acres. The number of acres burned in 2012 thus far is much lower than at this time last year. By mid-May 2011, almost 350,000 acres in New Mexico and nearly 77,000 acres in Arizona had burned. Last year was the worst fire season on record for Arizona and New Mexico, with more than 1 million acres burning in each state.
The fires discussed here have been reported by federal, state, or tribal agencies during 2012. 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 fire is provided next to the symbol.
These data are obtained from the Southwest Coordination Center website::
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 Dubois, New Mexico State Climatologist
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
The CLIMAS Web site contains official and non-official forecasts, as well as other information. While we make every effort to verify this information, please understand that we do not warrant the accuracy of any of these materials.... Read full disclaimer