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Wallow Fire remains largest wildfire in Arizona history, another busy season could be ahead

Posted at 5:05 PM, May 25, 2021

PHOENIX — As Arizona prepares for what is expected to be another busy wildfire season, we're also marking 10 years since our state saw the most destructive blaze in its history.

WALLOW FIRE AND ARIZONA'S OTHER LARGEST WILDFIRES

The Wallow Fire burned through more than 500,000 acres of forest in the White Mountains near the Arizona-New Mexico border in the summer of 2011. It was sparked on May 29, by a campfire lit in the area.

Aside from 2002's Rodeo-Chediski, Wallow more than doubles the next largest fires in our state's history. It was also one of Arizona's more recent large-scale wildfires, now joined by 2019's Woodbury Fire and the Bush Fire from last year which both claimed wide swaths of wilderness.

  1. Wallow - 2011 (522,000+acres)
  2. Rodeo-Chediski - 2002 (468,000+ acres)
  3. Cave Creek Complex - 2005 (243,000+ acres)
  4. Horseshoe 2 - 2011 (222,000+ acres)
  5. Bush Fire - 2020 (193,000+ acres)
  6. Woodbury - 2019 (123,000+acres)
  7. Willow - 2004 (119,000+ acres)
  8. Aspen Fire - 2003 (82,000+ acres)
  9. Edge Complex Fire - 2005 (72,000+ acres)
  10. Tank Complex Fire - 2005 (69,000+ acres)

For a better idea of the Wallow Fire's full impact, see its burn area compared to the size of the Valley in the map below.

The latest wildfire to join the list is the Bush Fire, which burned over 193,000 acres northeast of the Valley in the summer of 2020.

2021 WILDFIRE OUTLOOK

Scientists say the outlook for the western U.S. fire season is grim because it's starting far drier than 2020's record-breaking fire year.

According to the National Weather Service, our current drought is much worse than it was in the previous years when we had our top five biggest wildfire seasons.

Taking a closer look at Arizona, 99% of the state is in drought and 58% is in the worst kind of drought possible.

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The monsoon may help once it kicks into gear, but we also run the risk of more lightning-sparked wildfires when storms do roll in.

There's no clear indication right now as to how wet this monsoon could be.

The Climate Prediction Center gives most of Arizona equal chances of below-normal, near-normal or above-normal rainfall for June, July, and August.

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