The people battling wildfires behind the scenes

Posted at 4:34 AM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 09:48:41-04

They are the people responsible for tracking wildfires and the crews who battle them across most of Arizona.

"You kind of work as that one mind with a thousand arms,” said Norval Tyler, Manager of the Arizona Interagency Dispatch Center.

Norval oversees a staff of dispatchers who take reports, contact relevant agencies and work with local, state and federal partners to provide the appropriate resources to fight wildfires. From April to October, the command center off Pinnacle Peak Road in Deer Valley is staffed 24-7. Norval says dispatchers oversee five to 50 fires each day.

SCORCHED:A past, present and future look at Arizona wildfires

“As an incident starts to ramp up everybody kind of jumps in and helps support that role," he said.

Since January the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management says more than 620 fires have burned nearly 60,000 acres across the state – roughly 16,000 acres more than the same time last year. The command center has a network of 2,000 people and 2,000 pieces of equipment – from trucks, engines, helicopters and airplanes – available to respond.

The most difficult fire this year, Noval says, was the Sawmill Fire near Green Valley.

"It just moved through landscape really fast and, you know, camp moved three times. We had three different teams moving in and a lot of moving parts," he said.

With drier conditions, he expects this to be an especially dangerous summer.