Wildfire Update

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Wildfires have been sprouting up across the state, including one that caused hundreds of evacuations in Yarnell and another that threatened the water supply for Payson. KTAR fire reporter Jim Cross will tell us more.

Ted Simons: Wildfires continuing to break out across the state. And another threatened a future water source. Here to update the wildfire forecast in Arizona is KTAR fire reporter, Jim cross. Good to see you again. Let's -- we can get to these two particular fires in just a second here. As far as the forecast here in Arizona, what are we seeing?

Jim Cross: Bad and getting worse. The heat wave baked us. The one coming in, it's nasty. 119, 120 degrees. Conditions are as bad as they've ever been.

Ted Simons: We should mention the week after, starting Sunday, that entire week is not supposed to go under 110 for the high.

Jim Cross: We're going to be hot until the monsoon rains arrive.
Ted Simons: We are two times more fire in the first quarter of this year than last year?

Jim Cross: Over 800 fires so fire. 775 are [Indiscernible] caused. We are up on acreage from last year by about 110,000 acres ahead of last year's rate so we're well-ahead of the curve.

Ted Simons: Is it worse in the high country. Yarnell, that's still a very, very tender, hot area. Where is it worse, high or lower areas?

Jim Cross: Right now, collectively lower deserts but it's starting to climb up the elevations. Payson area, cotton area, Prescott. There had a lot of moisture in the mountains to dampen it down but its drying out.

Ted Simons: The rains that we had -- actually, we had rains in the winter but February and march were unusually dry.

Jim Cross: El Niño was a HUMONGOUS disappointment. It was supposed to drench Arizona. California is in trouble, too.

Ted Simons: The fire season seems to be lengthening?

Jim Cross: It's been getting longer by weeks or months or the last several years. I cannot honestly remember the last time we had a rain storm in the valley. Up in the high country, a little bit of snow. They're down. A little bit of rain. Weak winter. You know, I can't remember where we ever went into a spring or summer quite like this.

Ted Simons: Usually, it seems like history says when those temperatures get over 110, it's like a light switch goes off and fires start popping up.

Jim Cross: The conditions, according to the state Forester, they're considered to be similar to 02 and 11 and those were the two worst fires.

Ted Simons: Yeah, the 20 -- all right. Couple of fires that we've heard about, the tender foot fire. It sounds like that's laying down a little bit?

Jim Cross: Yeah, they've got a good handle on that. 40% contained, I heard. That was zero to 500 or 600 acres almost immediately. The firefighters are giving Yarnell credit. I talked to one firefighter, he said if they would not have cleared that, they would have lost a good chunk of that town.

Ted Simons: As far as resources involved, have they been moved out?

Jim Cross: They still have more than 300 people out there. They haven't had to use the air tankers. They were critical.

Ted Simons: The juniper fire up there near the blue ridge reservoir. It is very important to the city. Another year or two, that's going to be a major water source. The fire had threatened an area around the reservoir. Has that one calmed down?

Jim Cross: The fire is about 85% contained. I talked to them this afternoon. They're confident it won't be an issue for the water. Their were worried if they get a heavy monsoon rainfall. If they get a heavy monsoon rainfall and are washing the debris off the fire -- right now, things look good.

Ted Simons: And it sounded like, in some cases, they were just letting things burn because it was a healthy fire?

Jim Cross: Juniper fire, yeah. They're still letting it burn. And, you know, it's cleaning up a lot of forest that really needs to be cleaned up that hasn't burned for a long, long time.

Ted Simons: Helps revive the ecosystem and it's away from structures and out in rough areas. They're figuring this is actually a good thing?

Jim Cross: There's been a lot of those fires. Juniper fire, cowboy, Mormon. They were able to burn around that low intensity and it cleaned out a lot of forest that really needed to go.

Ted Simons: Resources up in the yarnell area, overall for Arizona, you're saying it's bad and it's getting worse. Are people ready for this?

Jim Cross: The people are ready for it. Arizona is in good shape, as far as resources because there's no big fires anywhere else in the west. We have plenty of firefighters. They have the two dv10s -- 3. They can use these two. So those are still there. No fires in California, New Mexico, Nevada. It's going to start. You're going to see California and those other states and it's going to get spread thin for manpower and equipment.

Ted Simons: Let's hope for the best here. Maybe a quick monsoon entrance that can slow things down as opposed to the lightning strikes. Jim, good to have you here.

Jim Cross: Thanks.

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Jim Cross: KTAR Fire Reporter

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