Late-season rain could make for active wildfire season - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Late-season rain could make for active wildfire season

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

You, your grass and your plants undoubtedly love the rain. And although it makes the open desert look pretty, that rain may actually make fire conditions worse.

"We had just enough precipitation to get the grasses and to get things growing well, but once we get later into the spring, we'll see things dry out and that'll set the stage for some potentially dangerous fire conditions once we hit the peak of the season," said Gary Woodall of the National Weather Service in Phoenix.

Here in central Arizona, the typical fire season runs from late April until monsoonal moisture arrives, usually in mid June.

"The desert cannot tolerate fire very well.  Problem is that once we get a season like this where we have a lot of grass, fires start and spread rapidly," said Helen Graham with Tonto National Forest.

Dry fuels, strong winds and very low relative humidity are the prime ingredients that prompt red flag warnings. The National Weather Service hopes people will pay serious attention to those warnings, especially this year.

"The red flag warnings that we issue are an indication that the meteorological conditions and the fuel conditions are favorable for rapid fire growth and extreme fire behavior," said Woodall.

The Tonto National Forest adds that although there are no restrictions at the moment, there will be soon.

"We really do enjoy the rain, but now that we see the annuals drying out, we can anticipate that we may need to go into restrictions in the next four to six weeks," added Graham.

The advice is the obvious. Don't throw cigarettes out the window, and be careful with your car near dry brush as the heat from underneath could spark a fire. For campers, keep in mind a campfire isn't out until you can run your fingers through it.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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