East Desert Fire

The East Desert Fire in the Cave Creek area was human caused.

A spike in the number of wildfires this year is concerning fire management officers as resources become spread thin and fires compete for firefighters, equipment, and aviation.

As of Tuesday, June 16, 941 wildfires have burned nearly 170,000 acres of private, federal, and tribal lands. Last year, during the same time frame, 689 fires burned close to 47,000 acres of land.

Nearly all, 95%, of this year’s fires are human caused, and while a majority of the fires are not intentional, they are preventable.

Department of Forestry and Fire Management investigators found multiple ignition sources, including an abandoned campfire, fireworks, and cigarette butts at the point of origin on the Stage Fire, near New River, back in May. The multiple ignition sources made it difficult for investigators to pinpoint the exact cause of the fire.

The East Desert and Ocotillo fires were also determined to be human caused. Investigators say East Desert was started by someone using a weed eater to clear vegetation in their yard.

The ignition source of the Ocotillo Fire remains under investigation.

This year, state fire investigators report some wildfire starts on private and state lands include, target shooting, escaped burn barrels, abandoned campfires, grinding metal, welding, and a barbecue grill that blew over in the wind.

“All of these fires could have easily been prevented by paying attention to your surroundings, the weather, and fire restrictions. Fire crews are over extended and fire managers are competing for ground and air resources. We are throwing every available resource at these fires, yet upon ignition, fires are showing signs of extreme behavior. They are burning fast and hot through retardant lines and making containment efforts challenging. It is extremely important that people help us out by doing their part,’ said John Truett, DFFM fire management officer.

DFFM asks Arizonans to do their part by never burning on windy days or using equipment that may throw sparks. If you must work outdoors, do so in the early morning or early evening hours when temperatures are cooler.

Before getting on the road, check to ensure tow chains are secure and your car is in proper working order. Fires can start by overheating vehicles, blown tires, and drivers pulling off into tall grasses.

Residents need to create defensible space around their property and establish a buffer zone between the home and potential wildfire.

Stage II fire restrictions are in place across Arizona; on both federal and state lands. Under Stage II, campfires are prohibited. Target shooting and fireworks are never allowed on state land at any time of the year.

For wildfire and prevention information, download DFFM’s mobile phone application by searching the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management in the iTunes and Google Play stores.

Fire restriction information can be found at https://firerestrictions.us/.

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