El Nino brings an atypical fire season

The past 30-40 days we've seen one moisture-laden tropical storm after the next. It's made for record rain in Arizona, and the wet weather is having an impact on the state's wildfire season.

FOX 10 spoke with a forestry expert at Northern Arizona University, and he says we should expect some unusual fire conditions as the monsoon gets in full swing.

With Record rainfall, below average temperatures, and sticky afternoons it has been an atypical start to June. Dr. Wally Covington, Forestry Professor at Northern Arizona University, says our wildfire season is shaping up to be just as unusual.

"Typically in the middle of May we're in a severe fire season, and right now the outlook is good for probably the next 30-40 days," said Dr. Wally Covington.

In the 40 years Dr. Covington's been in AZ, he says this is one of the moistest starts to Wildfire season he's ever seen. Right now, there are no fire restrictions for a high country. Something largely unheard of as vacation season gets underway. 

"For the first time in a long time they are starting to plan a 4th of July Fireworks Celebration, so that I think is a good indicator of the lower fire potential we're seeing," said Dr. Covington.

While the warm waters of El Nino will likely bring us rain all the way through winter, the threat for wildfires in the *valley still exists. Fine fuels like grasses and wildflowers dry out rapidly, even after big storms.

"We still have the potential for a grassland desert savannah type fires in the southern and western part of the state especially," he said.

And with all the rain comes lightening. Covington says it isn't likely to start fires in the moist, high country, but hikers enjoying the lush canopy could be in danger. 

"When it's raining they say oh lets get under this tree, the tree will protect me from some if the rain but, of course, the tallest areas tallest trees is where lightning will strike," said Covington.

It's safer to stay inside the car or inside a building when it's raining, and when the storm clears it looks like you will be able to roast s'mores over the campfire this summer. 

As El Nino strengthens and pushes more moisture toward us,  it has the opposite effect on the Northwest. Places like Eastern OR & WA, Northern California, ID and MT, are expected to have very active fire seasons. So Dr. Covington says this is a good summer to camp out down here in AZ instead of traveling up north. 
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