Officials: 2014 fire season underway in AZ, NM - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

UPDATE

Officials: 2014 fire season underway in AZ, NM

PHOENIX (CBS5/AP) -

Recent warm weather, dry conditions and a spate of brush fires on the outskirts of major cities of Arizona and New Mexico are prompting a year-round threat of wildfires.

In the Albuquerque area, Lt. Michael Everett of the Bernalillo County Fire Department said there's been little rain or snow and that everybody need be aware of the early fire threat and very careful.

In Arizona, Rural Metro spokesman Colin Williams said conditions in some places on the outskirts of the Phoenix area resemble the brush-choked area where 19 firefighters perished last year in the Yarnell Hill Fire.

There's also concern in timber country where lower than normal precipitation levels have left forests vulnerable.

The Arizona Insurance Council, a non-profit, said threats to private property in and bordering forested areas have dramatically increased.

"Each year, during Arizona's wildfire season, thousands of homes, businesses and other structures are threatened by wildland fires," said Nicole Farr of the Arizona Insurance Council (AIC). "Including autos, boats and other personal property, the economic losses in 2014 could be millions of dollars."

Arizona Firewise, a cooperative effort of state and federal forest, wildfire and wildlife organizations, recommends the following tips:

  • If the home is on flat land surrounded by grassland, create a 30-foot defensible space zone around the home. If the home sits on a slope with adjacent vegetation that is dense or has tall brush, create defensible space of at least 200 feet.
  • Prune trees near structures and remove excess ground fuels such as fallen needles, cones and branches.
  • Pile firewood and other flammables well away from home and other structures.
  • Keep access roads free of debris and vegetation to improve access and escape in case of fire.
  • Clean debris from roofs and gutters.
  • Consider constructing or renovating with fire resistant building materials.
  • Review your homeowner's policy.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.

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