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Updated Mar 28, 2013 - 8:22 am

Phoenix-area fire departments ready for wildfire season

PHOENIX -- Firefighters from about two dozen Valley departments wrap up training Thursday at the Goldfield Workstation at Tonto National Forest.

Wildfire experts said Arizona is heading for an above-average season. Al DiBenedetto with Scottsdale Fire said there's no longer an average fire season.

"The rains we've had this year brought a lot of growth in the desert and we didn't get enough snowpack in the high country," he said.

Carrie Dennett with Arizona State Forestry said the department is ready for the season.

"We have all of the firefighters and equipment we had last year. If we get more rainfall, we could see more frequent and larger fires in the desert," Dennett said. "In the high country it all depends on if we get more snow, which appears unlikely. Typically fire season starts in May but that's a moving target."

United States Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has said wildfire seasons are about two months longer than they were just a decade ago and Arizona is one of the states most at risk.

According to Tidwell, conditions are similar to last year, when 9.3 million acres burned in the third-most active season since 1960.

Bark beetles have invaded 46 million acres of western forest (an area larger than the size of Missouri), which has created tinderbox conditions.

About the Author

Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.


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