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Tips for Preventing Wildfires

As people are gearing up for Fourth of July celebrations, and Arizona remembers the Yarnell Hill Fire a year later, it's important to be reminded of the high fire risk throughout much of the state.

Photo credit: Sam Beebe

As of Thursday, Arizona wildland fires have burned 139,378 acres from 783 human-caused and 50 lightning-caused fires – excluding prescribed fires, said fire expert Gregg Garfin, an assistant professor in the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

The amount of acres burned so far this season already exceeds median acres that generally burn in Arizona throughout the entire fire season, Garfin also noted.

Here are some tips for campers, hikers, homeowners and others.

Pay attention to laws and fire restrictions

Fire restrictions vary throughout the state. Regardless, always check the weather and plan before taking a trip. Always take plenty of water for cooking, drinking and putting out any fires you start. Also, never burn when it is windy out, and never leave a fire unattended. Always check that a fire is out before leaving the area.

To learn more about restrictions, you can call the U.S. Forest Service hotline at 877-864-6985 and find fire restrictions online

And a word of warning: Fireworks and incendiary devices, like exploding targets and ammunition, are not allowed on federal public lands at any time.

Homeowners: Take extra care

Homeowners can plant fire-resistant plants, place wood piles and wooden picnic tables well away from buildings and remove needles and leaves from roofs to help protect homes.

Avoid using high-resin, fire-prone plant materials. Succulent ground covers, flowerbeds, vegetable gardens and broadleaf trees are better choices. Also, be sure to prune branches back at least 15 feet away from structures and keep grasses and lawns short and at least five feet away.

The UA's Cooperative Extension provides more information and tips online.

Be aware of the dangers your vehicle can pose

Avoid pausing or parking vehicles in tall grass or over shrubs, and do not park in areas where vegetation is touching the underside of your vehicle. Also, prevent safety chains and other trailer equipment from dragging, which can create sparks. 

Be preventive when it comes to equipment use

Be aware that mowers, chainsaws, welding torches and other equipment can create sparks, creating a risk for starting a fire. Before grooming your yard, remove rocks – which also can create sparks. Also, use a string trimmer in areas with high grass and weeds, or where many rocks are present.   

Always report wildfires

If you see a wildfire, do not hesitate to call 911.

Sources: Gregg Garfin, UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment; the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; the Arizona Interagency Wildfire Prevention; and Firewise.