"Fire Season" is year-round in Southern Arizona, officials say

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Although it's December, Coronado National Forest spokesperson Heidi Schewel is concerned about the potential for wildfires in Southern Arizona. She believes there is widespread fire danger in the region.

"It used to be from this month to this month, when it was really hot and dry," she said. "Now, we're seeing fires every month."

All the current dry, windy, and warm conditions need is a spark, according to Schewel.

"Some of our mountain ranges haven't seen any moisture since July, so that's what's going on up in the higher elevations," Schewel said. "Down here, we see a lot of brown stuff that is just ready to burn, it's just that dry."

Around this time of year, lightning typically won't be the culprit behind a wildfire; rather, it's people, Schewel explained. Because of this, she's urging everyone use extra caution when they're dealing with anything that could start a fire.

"Anything that could really create that spark could result in a wildfire," she said. "Tossing a cigarette butt out the window, having a campfire on a windy day -- it takes nothing to lift an ember out of a fire to start a fire. If you have a campfire, even leaving it to go for a short hike, that can really result in something that nobody wants to see. Welding outdoors, welding outdoors on windy days, tow chains dragging on asphalt."

Just down the street at the Saguaro National Park East, Michelle Fidler, Fire Communications Specialist for the National Park Service, shares a similar concern. While she says they've had a fortunate year, she's nervous a wildfire could have devastating effects at the park, if one were to spark up.

"Our deserts are not adapted to fire, historically they didn't burn very often and the vegetation was spread out," Fidler said. "Now that we have invasive species like Buffelgrass and other grasses coming it, it's filling up those spaces and creating a bed of fuel for that fire to carry through the park."

If a fire were to break out in the Coronado National Forest, Schewel explained there are crews that are ready to go. However, if a fire is too big for the team to handle, they'll need to call in for help, which could be tricky with so many crews helping out in Southern California.

"Our crews will respond, try to put it out," she said. "If they can't and they need to order help, that's when we're going to need to compete for resources."

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