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Roundup Photographer Andy Towle got close enough to the Sunflower Fire to get an image of flames on Thursday (left).

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Mega fires: Much worse yet to come

The fierce start of the 2012 fire season last weekend offers a frightening portent of things to come in Rim Country, according to mounting evidence. Researchers say that the tree-ring and fossil records stretching back for thousands of years show little sign of the sort of recent “mega fires” that have sterilized soils and reduced whole forests to a moonscape of ash with increasing frequency in the Southwest. “Mega fires are huge, landscape-scale fires in excess of 100,000 acres. We’re seeing this throughout the West, but Arizona is on the leading edge,” said forest ecologist and Northern Arizona University Regent’s Professor Wally Covington.

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