Wildfires in the Sonoran Desert are man-made monsters. Examinations of ancient forests of saguaros and ironwoods show devastating blazes in Arizona’s lower elevations were rare until the 20th century, according to Maricopa County parks ranger John Gunn.
“The question becomes: ‘What has changed in that interval since the settlement of the Southwest?’” Gunn said. “What has changed in the landscape to create the formula that fire requires?”
Why the Sonoran Desert now is more prone to fire will be explained during a presentation Gunn will give tonight in north Scottsdale.
Sponsoring the talk is the Sierra Club’s Saguaro Group of the Grand Canyon Chapter.
The Saguaro Group’s chairman, Louis Lantz, takes a personal interest in this topic: In June 2005, he was forced out of his home by the Cave Creek Complex fire.
That blaze scorched almost 244,000 acres, making it the second-largest wildfire in state history.
According to a 2007 fire season outlook released last month by federal officials, Arizona’s deserts are at an abovenormal risk for wildfires.
The season — which usually runs from April to July — is expected to start late and end slightly later than usual with the onset of the monsoon.
The Southwest Coordination Center sees as a problem last year’s wetter-than-average monsoon. That rain has led to a buildup of desert grasses, which will dry out in the spring.
Wildfire review What: Maricopa County parks ranger John Gunn will discuss desert wildfires during a presentation sponsored by the Sierra Club’s Saguaro Group of the Grand Canyon Chapter. Where: Harris Bank, 34525 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. When: 7 p.m. today