Mar 15, 2013 9:34 PM by John Overall
TUCSON - The United States is off to the slowest start to a wildfire season in a decade. But the fire forecast is extreme according to the US Forest Service. And Arizona is one of the predicted hot spots.
Last year across the country 14,500 square miles were charred, a dozen lives were lost, and more than 2,200 homes and businesses were destroyed.
The most recent forecast shows normal fire conditions through the end of March but things will change quickly as temperatures rise.
Tucson got quite a bit of rain and snow in February and all that moisture fed the vegetation around the desert. Now that the it's getting hotter and dryer those plants and grasses become possible fuel for wild fires. And according to Andrew Atkins with the Bureau of Land Management buffel grass is public enemy number one. "It's probably the biggest threat to the Sonoran desert that we have right now is buffel grass. It burns hot and it's fire adaptive so it comes back pretty strong after it burns. It becomes a carrier fuel which takes the fire from plant to plant," Atkins said.
The forest service is ramping up for the season while trying to absorb a 5 percent cut in funding due to sequestration. That means positioning firefighters and resources in areas where fire activity is expected to be above normal. Southern California, New Mexico, and Florida join Arizona on the list of predicted hot spots for wild fires.