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Wet Weather Increases Fire Fuels In Southern Arizona, New Mexico

The Wallow Fire burns in the distance.
Michel Marizco
The Wallow Fire burns in the distance.

A wet winter means fire season is expected to start later than usual in Arizona’s mountains. But southern Arizona is a different story. 

Meteorologists expect southern Arizona and New Mexico to be warm, dry and breezy in the coming weeks, setting up for above-normal fire potential as early as June. The wetter winter encouraged more grass, what fire managers call “fuel.” 

“The fine fuels and grasses we’ve grown as result of some wet periods including this past summer’s monsoon have certainly increased the fine fuel loading,” said Chuck Maxwell, a meteorologist with the Southwest Coordination Center in Albuquerque.

That means fires will ignite and spread more quickly. On the other hand, Maxwell said drought in the southwest is not nearly the problem that it was four or five years ago. He expects another wet monsoon this summer. 

Laurel Morales was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2011 to 2020.