(data through July 16, 2013 )
Data Source(s): Southwest Coordination Center
A decrease in fire activity accompanies the onset of the monsoon. Many areas in Arizona have experienced between 2 and 3 inches of rain since the monsoon officially began on June 15, which is generally more than 150 percent of average (see Monsoon Summary). Consequently, fire activity is low in Arizona. While precipitation in New Mexico, particularly in the southwestern corner, has been less than in Arizona, fire activity is also currently low. As of July 16, only 6 and 21 fires have burned this year in New Mexico and Arizona, respectively, charring a total of 185,422 acres in New Mexico and 84,752 acres in Arizona (Figure 8a; Figures 8b–c are updated only through June 26). 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 2 on July 13. Level 2 risk occurs when firefighting resources such as personnel and equipment are sufficiently available within the Southwest to combat large wildland fires. 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. Between 2000 and 2012, for example, only about 10 percent of the acres burned during the calendar year occurred after July.
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 table shows year-to-date fire information for Arizona and New Mexico. Prescribed burns are not included in these numbers. The two figures indicate the approximate locations of past (in 2013) 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.