Monsoons help control wildfires

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- In Arizona and New Mexico, one season seems to have trumped another: monsoon over wildfire.
New Mexico's monsoon season has been relatively wet and Arizona's rather dry, but in both states fortuitously timed rains have helped stifle the wildfire season.
Both states have experienced major fires, topped by Arizona's Willow fire, which charred 119,500 acres, and southern New Mexico's Peppin fire, which blackened 64,488 acres and burned a dozen cabins. Lightning sparked both.
But the worst of a comparatively mild fire season is essentially over, barring significant drying and a hot fall once the monsoon officially ends next month -- which wildfire officials and weathermen acknowledge could happen.
"I do not think we're entirely out of it. But with that said, I wouldn't expect to see any large catastrophic fires," said Chuck Maxwell, predictive services group leader for the Southwest Coordination Center, a federal fire management agency.
Instead, Maxwell said he anticipates seeing continued numerous smaller fires, particularly in Arizona, that fire agencies will jump on quickly. And he noted that the fire danger is still considerably above normal because of drought in both states.
There were 35 large fires in the two states between Feb. 4 and Aug. 14, all but six in Arizona. By contrast, there were 64 in the same span last year -- 40 in Arizona and 24 in New Mexico.

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