Wet Winter Plus Dry Spring Means More Wildfires Likely

June 10, 2010

If you live in the Southwest, it’s time to make sure you have adequate homeowners (hazard) insurance. Why? because AccuWeather is reporting that this season, and especially the next few days, could lead to a “particularly troubling” fire season. The company explained that the heavy moisture caused by intense winter storms spurred greater than usual growth of brush and foliage this spring. Now that summery temperatures and bright sunshine are causing things to dry out, such growth is more likely to become fuel for wildfires caused by lightning.

AccuWeather stresses that not every summer day holds the same risk of fire danger. Days with low humidity are fairly common, for example, but days with low humidity and gusty breezes – the necessary combination to exacerbate fire danger – are comparatively rare.

Explained a representative of the company, “While a cooldown is in store for the Southwest beginning Friday and lasting through the weekend, gusty winds and low humidity levels will raise the fire danger the next few days. Any fire that gets going could spread rapidly.”

Despite the fact that this year has seen fewer wildfires (so far) than the average, the potential always exists for that to change, especially with building drought conditions in the Southwest, which had its wettest early and middle winter in years. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, this year through June 10, there have been about 970,000 wildfires nationally. During 2009 through June 10, due to very dry conditions throughout the winter and spring, there were nearly 1.6 million wildfires across the nation.

So far, however, prevailing wet conditions in much of the Northwest, Northeast and Southeast have resulted in fewer than average wildfires. However, an abrupt and early end to spring rains mean that foliage and brush may reach their driest conditions sooner rather than later.