Drought, bark beetles contribute to extreme fire season danger
Despite the recent rain and snow throughout the state, this year's fire season is still expected to be extreme.
Forest Service expects the fire season to start by May, unless the state is hit with an unexpected heat wave.
Last year the fire season started in April in the higher elevations of Northern Arizona and in January and March in the southern part of the state.
Recent rain "has helped us out a lot," Bureau of Land Management fire prevention specialist Mike Trent said.
"But we still need some more rain.
By no means are we out of the drought."
Trent said in the Hualapai Mountains the recent storms dropped between 3 1/2 inches and 7 inches of rain.
Trent said the local mountains need a few more good rains to get back to normal.
It will depend on the next four to six weeks.
"It's going to be a more active fire season in the desert," Forest Service public affairs officer Jim Payne said.
"If we hadn't gotten this moisture, some trees were going to die on their own."
The fire season is expected to be extreme because of the drought and infestation of beetles.
Tree eating beetles have killed trees in the state's forests and the rains have spurred growth in desert's grass and brush.
About 200,00 acres of Prescott National Forest are infested with the beetles.
The dead trees and brush growth from the rains should create plenty of fuels for a devastating fire.
Trent said the rains would help trees defend against the beetles by creating more protective sap.
Flagstaff saw 13 more inches of snow than the same time last year.
That is still 60 percent the snow it normal years.
But the recent rains are barely making a dent in the amount of water the forests need to get back on par with normal rainfall, Prescott National Forest deputy supervisor Mika Baca said.
"I've been saying that if you listen carefully, at least outside, you can hear the ground making a sucking sound," Baca said.
The forest near Prescott is expected to be a major tinderbox this summer because of the Ips Bark Beetle.
In Eastern Arizona, crews are still working to clear campgrounds, trails and roads of downed trees and replant some of the 462,606 acres of national forest that burned last June and July in the Rodeo-Chediski fire.