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Arizona Fire Season Worst in History

Almost 1M acres charred
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2011 2:49 PM CDT
Arizona Wildfires Biggest in History
A couple of elk escape the wildfire in the Apache National Forest during back burn operations as the Wallow Fire continues to burn June 12, 2011 in Big Lake, Arizona.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – In terms of sheer acreage, it’s been the worst year on record for Arizona wildfires: Some 981,748 acres were charred in the flames, surpassing the 2005 record of 975,178. Driving the flames were dry weather and heavy winds early in the summer, reports the Arizona Republic. But the record is “not a big surprise,” says a meteorologist. “As early as last fall, we were saying conditions were consistent with some of the largest fire seasons of the past 30 to 50 years.”

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The record was broken yesterday during a fire near the Grand Canyon. Although it’s been the worst year for fires by volume, it’s been relatively mild in other ways, the Republic notes. No one has been killed in this year’s fires, and just 181 structures have been destroyed—compared to almost 500 ravaged in 2002. Interestingly, there were far fewer fires this year than in 2005—some 1,500 compared to 4,000. Much of the damage came from a single fire, the Wallow Fire, the biggest in state history at 538,049 acres. (Read more Arizona stories.)

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