Fire forecast: Yavapai, Coconino counties in ‘high’ danger zone
YAVAPAI COUNTY – Area meteorologists and forest personnel are predicting a possibly volatile and intense wildland fire season in 2020.
Firefighters have already had to spring into action. This week, crews had to evacuate eight residences in an area northwest of Congress in the southwest part of Yavapai County, keeping the 250-acre fire from reaching more residences after the UTV-caused blaze had taken out two structures.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Jon Suk, who works in Flagstaff, said the NWS looks at reports coming from the U.S. Forest Service, which produces maps based on recent rainfall, humidity and historical fire weather climatology.
The Forest Service’s Friday, May 29, outlook for Arizona showed southeastern Mohave County and southwestern Yavapai County in a zone marked “Fire Danger Class: Very High,” while most of Yavapai County was merely in the “High” danger class.
Debbie Maneely, the public affairs specialist for the Prescott National Forest, said her local group relies on the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, provided by the National Interagency Fire Center. It begins its section about the southwestern U.S. by saying there is an “above-normal significant large fire potential expected” in 2020.
Even though spring temperatures west of the Continental Divide have been 1 to 5 degrees below normal, the outlook says, “normal significant large fire potential is expected across the region in May — except across western Arizona, where above-normal significant large fire potential is expected.”
The forecast says these above-normal potential areas will expand eastward across Arizona and into western New Mexico in June and early July, before the summer monsoon can start.
“Following the arrival of the monsoon in July, all areas will return to normal significant large-fire potential,” the outlook says.
And how much rain will the monsoon dump on Northern Arizona? That seems as tough to predict as ever, the Interagency Center says in its outlook.
“Longer-term forecast models are beginning to suggest a possibility that the summer monsoon could be delayed slightly — and could, perhaps, be even below normal in some areas in July and August,” the outlook says. “However, confidence is low in this due to high uncertainty in the latest data.”
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