ARIZONA, USA — Arizona wildfires have burned more acres of land this year than what burned in 2018 and 2019 combined, according to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
More than 700,000 acres have been scorched by the 1,669 fires the state has seen so far, 87% of which were human-caused, the department said. The number is the highest amount of acres burned per year compared to the last five years.
Both humans and mother nature seem to be at blame for the large amount of land burned, according to the department's Public Information Officer Tiffany Davila. The heightened amount of dry foliage due to the intense heat the state has experienced definitely helped set the stage for the disastrous spread of fire.
"The moisture from 2018 coupled with the moisture from 2019 increased the fire fuel across the central portion of the state and down through southern Arizona," Davila said. "We basically just had a surplus of kindling across the state. When fires start with that kind of fuel, they move very quickly and very rapidly."
The increase in people visiting outdoor areas as businesses are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to the increase.
"The amount of re-creators has doubled," Davila said. "Either people are not paying attention to fire restrictions or just disregarding fire restrictions in general, which is unfortunate because fire suppression is expensive and firefighters are spread so thin."
The majority of fires are usually seen during the weekend, due to more people being out and about, according to Davila. However, this changed during the first few months when the stay-at-home order was issued by Governor Doug Ducey.
As more people were trying to get work done at their homes and in their yards, an increase in the amount of fire activity seen on a daily basis has also been seen.
More fire restrictions will reportedly be going into effect on Aug. 14 due to the record amount of wildfire damage. Both area-specific and state restrictions will be announced, each with their own specific details.
"It's important that people just check the fire restriction website because each agency has its own differences," Davila said. "It's just important that people know where they're going before they head out."