Drought ' heat = fire
fire season started fast and furiously.
the parched states of Arizona and New Mexico, 3,600 fires have
scorched some 324,000 acres. As a precautionary measure, 10 of 11
national forests in the region declared at least part of their
acreage off-limits to recreationists in June.
The most dramatic story comes from northern
Arizona, where conditions were dry enough by May that the Kaibab
and Coconino national forests closed some 60 percent of their land.
Their fear proved well-founded late last month, when five separate
ponderosa pine fires had Flagstaff nearly surrounded. Though many
structures were threatened, damage was minimal.
North of the Grand Canyon, it took 875
firefighters to contain a 53,000-acre blaze on the Kaibab Plateau.
No injuries were reported, but 10 Grand Canyon hikers had to be
evacuated by helicopter. "If they had come out of the canyon, they
would have come out right in the fire," a Forest Service
spokesperson told AP.
Not every part of the West
is seeing smoke. In the Northwest and Northern Rockies, last
winter's heavy snowpack has kept most fires down.
The burn total for the inland West is rapidly
approaching 1 million acres, the annual average for the entire
nation over the past five years. Under rainy skies, all 10 forests
had re-opened by early July. "You can just breath a sigh of relief
now that the monsoons are here," said Cathie Schmidlin of the
Kaibab National Forest.