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Arizona officials turn to residents to aid fire-season efforts

PHOENIX -- Temperatures in Arizona's high country will be 10 to 15 degrees above normal and fire danger is expected to be boosted to "high" by Friday.

It has been a weak winter for places such as Flagstaff, which received only about 30 percent of the typical average precipitation. The timber areas did get some recent rain and snowfall but climatologist Randy Cerveny of Arizona State University said it may be too little, too late.

"It fueled more brush and grass growth and they will dry out and become very brittle. All it takes is one match or one bolt of lightning and you have a forest fire," Cerveny said.

There are no campfire or smoking restrictions in the state's national forests but that is expected to change sooner rather than later.

High-country homeowners have a vested interest in the upcoming wildfire season and they're being called into the fight to add support.

Flagstaff Police Sgt. Cory Runge said residents will get a one-hour crash course on spotting wildfire activity Friday night. "Woods Watch" training will take place at at the Law Enforcement Administration Facility located at 911 E. Sawmill Road at 6 p.m. The Coconino County Sheriff's Office, Flagstaff Police and U.S. Forest Service will participate.

"This is a program we developed to patrol our forests," Runge said. "People will look for abandoned campfires and campfires that are being lit in restricted areas. They will contact us and we will investigate."

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About the Author

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

Favorite food: Steak and shrimp, and any food on campouts.

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

Favorite news memory: 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. The 2007 Southern California Firestorm and being at Sky Harbor Airport when the first plane lifted off several days after 9-11. Seeing the American flag on the tail of the Salt Lake City-bound Delta airliner as it took off still gives me goosebumps.

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

First job: Spinning records at KLER Radio Orofino, Idaho 1980.

First concert: KISS/Cheap Trick 1977 Spokane, WA Coliseum.

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

Outside interests: Sports, camping, fishing, traveling.


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