PHOENIX — State wildfire officials say they're starting a proactive patrol in response to several recent fires northwest of the Valley that were all started by human activity.
Last month, firefighters contained three fires in the area of Wittmann and Wickenburg. The Painted Wagon, Forest, and Patton fires all burned in a region which typically does not see much fire activity, according to a news release from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
The Painted Wagon fire ignited April 8 and burned 384 acres west of Wittmann. Investigators determined it was started by a burning pile of debris.
The Forest fire, which started April 21st, burned 266 acres southwest of Wickenburg before being contained. It was determined to have been started by a barbecue.
On April 27, the Patton fire started due to welding and burned 570 acres south of Wickenburg before it was contained.
“Winter and spring moisture has led to a significant amount of grass growth throughout the Sonoran Desert, which includes the Wickenburg and Wittmann areas. In the past, people may have been able to conduct outdoor activities, and if a fire were to start, they were able to suppress it themselves with a hose or other water source," said Byron Kimball, a fire behavior expert with DFFM. "With the abundance of those fine, flashy fuels now beginning to cure, it is making it more challenging for residents to suppress fires on their own. The abundance of this fuel type is causing fires to burn at a higher intensity and grow rapidly,”
In an alert issued this week, state fire officials say the grass growth has connected pockets of previously isolated shrubs, allowing what would previously have been a fire that only burned a few plants, to spread over a much larger area.
#AZForestry determines fires in #Wickenburg #Wittmann-areas human-caused. #PaintedWagonFire - debris burn, #ForestFire- barbecue & #PattonFire - welding. Due to the abnormal amount of fires there - our Central District engine will be patrolling those areas this weekend. #AZFire pic.twitter.com/Fhil8gujTR— AZ State Forestry (@azstateforestry) May 2, 2019
A state fire engine will patrol the Wittmann and Wickeburg area this weekend in response to the increased fire risk in those areas.