By Fernanda Santos | The New York Times
Wildfire season started early here this year.
In two months, more than 20 fires have broken out across the bottom half of Arizona, from its southeastern tip, near New Mexico, to the outskirts of Tucson and west of Phoenix. Flames have consumed so many acres that Gov. Doug Ducey declared a state of emergency last week, freeing up more money to cover the growing costs of fighting fire on abnormally dry land.
More land has burned so far this year in the Southwest than anywhere else in the country as a new season of fast-moving fires has unfolded across the western United States. Firefighters, guided by lessons learned in past deadly fires, are struggling to stay ahead of the flames.
Arizona is one of four states in the region using a system to identify communities made more susceptible to burning by overgrown vegetation. The goal is to enlist residents to do their part: “Clean up around your yard, trim the trees around your cabin, get those fuels removed,” said Arizona’s state forester, Jeff Whitney.