Southwest Wildfire Season Poised to Ignite

June 10, 2010

Southwestern states could face a particularly troubling fire season this year, particularly in the next few days, according to reports. The company said moisture from winter storms has spurred spring growth of brush and foliage. And now that the growth is drying out and dying under the summer sunshine, it is more succeptible to becoming fuel for wildfires, which often are caused by lightning.

Not all days of the summer are the same as far as fire danger is concerned, said. While days with low humidity are very common in the summer, days with a stiff breeze or gusty winds are more rare. When the two get together, with or without soaring temperatures, the fire danger skyrockets.

“While a cooldown is in store for the Southwest beginning Friday and lasting through the weekend, gusty winds and low humidity levels will raise the fire danger the next few days,” the company said. “Any fire that gets going could spread rapidly.”

While, nationally, the number of wildfires is down for the year so far compared to last year, there is potential for the number of wildfires to jump suddenly, largely due to building drought conditions in the Southwest. Many areas of Southwest had their wettest, early and middle parts of the winter in years.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, this year through June 10, there have been about 970,000 wildfires nationally. During 2009 through June 10, due to very dry conditions throughout the winter and spring, there were nearly 1.6 million wildfires across the nation.

Prevailing wet conditions this past winter and spring in the Northwest, Northeast and Southeast have resulted in lower than average numbers of wildfires thus far.

Although the foliage and brush are not at its driest state as the mid- and late-summer months, an abrupt and early end to spring rains has accelerated the drying process of the spring growth in the Southwest, the company said.


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