PHOENIX - Above average temperatures and below average rain chances through the end of April could increase Arizona's wildfire threat this year.
Wildfire season can begin as early as March with larger, harder-to-contain fires possible May into June. After a wetter than normal fall and early winter, trees and shrubs have grown, creating fuel for fires when they begin to dry.
Helen Graham, Deputy Fire Staff Officer with the Tonto National Forest said she believes this could be a problematic year for fires in our state.
"The accumulations of fuels last year and the drought stress that we have in the brush and trees we could really have a problematic fire season," Graham said. "We're in a long term drought and if you look at our two-year rainfall average we are well below normal."
"With high temperatures and lack of spring precipitation, what's going to happen is the grass is going to dry out sooner, brush and trees stressed by the lack of water are going to be receptive to fire as well," Graham added.
Graham says the best hope is to have good spring rains and a great monsoon season to help bring more moisture into the area.
If we continue without rainfall through January, this will be one of the driest on record.
Fire officials say even though we're not dealing with the summer heat, homeowners need to take precautions to keep their property safe from fires.
Mike Young with the Glendale Fire Department advises people to clear weeds, cut low hanging trees and spread out plants on their property.
"We aren't telling people they need to have dry, barren landscaping," said Young. "We want people to be proud of their yards and plant flowers and bushes but they also need to realize that with that comes a sense of responsibility. They need to water and maintain them and keep them green."
If you're worried about your neighbor's yard or live next to a vacant home, you can contact your city's Code Compliance Department. They will send out the fire department to check the property.