An unusually cool and wet May is delaying the start of the wildfire season around northern Arizona.
Weather conditions at this time last year were hot and windy, frustrating firefighters battling what became a 33-square-mile blaze in Oak Creek Canyon, a popular recreation area near Sedona. Land managers last year began implementing fire restrictions in mid-April.
This year, much of Arizona will head into Memorial Day weekend with precipitation well above normal for this time and without fire restrictions. The exception is in the Arizona portion of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, where fire restrictions are implemented as a standard practice from May through September.
The potential for large wildfires in the Prescott National Forest near Prescott hit at least a 20-year low last weekend, the Daily Courier reported. Along with the rainy weather, the average high temperature so far in May is 68 degrees, that’s more than 7 degrees lower than the 117-year average.
I think we have to go back quite a ways to see a May like this,” said Jeff Andrews, a fire officer for the Prescott forest.
Prescott has received more than 7 inches of precipitation so far this year, well above the 2 inches it received in the same time frame last year. Flagstaff has measured 10.8 inches of precipitation since January, Window Rock had about 4.75 inches, Show Low had more than 4.5 inches and Oak Creek Canyon measured nearly 14 inches.
Across the board, quite a bit more than what we saw last year at this time,” said Justin Johndrow of the National Weather Service
The forecast calls for a chance of rain this weekend, possibly more than a quarter-inch in the northwestern part of the state.
May typically is the second driest month in Arizona, topped by June. The monsoon season generally starts in July.
Andrews said despite the increased moisture, now is the time for people to begin preparing for the wildfire season by clearing brush around their homes.
At the end of the day, it is Arizona and it is going to get hot,” he said. We have a fire season every year in Arizona.”
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