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Published October 24, 2012
The number of wildland fires between January 1 and October 4, the period that includes the bulk of the fires and acres burned in the 2012 water year, was below average in Arizona but above average in New Mexico. The fire season this year followed the typical timeline, with wildfires beginning in earnest in May and peaking in June to early July. The onset of the monsoon in early July helped extinguish fires and increased soil and fuel moisture levels, reducing the number of new fire starts thereafter. The fire season began with similar conditions as last year, as above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation during the winter and spring months elevated fire risk by reducing moisture levels in soils and live fuels such as grasses, shrubs, and trees. This year, however, was not as damaging as the 2011 fire season, when approximately one million acres—the most on record in Arizona and New Mexico—burned in each state.
In Arizona, majority of the fires burned in the Southeast corner of the state (Figure 5a), with fires charring about 163,250 acres—about 50,000 acres less than the 1990–2011 average. In New Mexico, nearly 372,500 acres burned, which was about 105,000 more acres than the 1990–2011 average. The majority of these acres burned in 22 fires (Figure 5b). New Mexico’s largest wildfire this year, the Whitewater Baldy Complex fire, torched about 298,000 acres, or about 80 percent of the total acres burned in the state (Table 4). The blaze was caused by two lightning strikes on May 16 in the Gila National Forest near Glenwood and nearly doubled the state wildfire record set by last year’s Las Conchas fire, which burned more than 150,000 acres. The second largest fire in the region was the Little Bear fire, which burned more than 44,330 acres beginning on June 4 in the Lincoln National Forest, northwest of Ruidoso, NM. The Grapevine fire, the largest in Arizona this year, tore through the Coronado National Forest near Safford on June 28. This lightning-caused fire burned 19,100 acres.
Click figures to enlarge.
|Fire Name||State||Acres Burned|
Southwest Climate Outlook Staff
- Michael Crimmins, UA Extension Specialist
- Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment Editor
- Gregg Garfin, Founding Editor, Institute of the Environment
- Zack Guido, Managing Editor, CLIMAS Associate Staff Scientist
- Nancy J. Selover, Arizona State Climatologist
- Jessica Dollin, CLIMAS Publications Assistant
- Dave Dubois, New Mexico State Climatologist
Please direct your Southwest Climate Outlook comments and suggestions to Zack Guido.
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