Early Wildfires Spark Worry in North Phoenix & Statewide

303 fire flames
The 303 Fire on June 22, 2017 raced north from the Loop 303 to just west of the Dove Valley Road exit at I-17, seen here, before burning all the way to the Carefree Highway. Photo by Robert Roy Britt

After an intense wildfire season in 2017, state and local fire officials say a warm and dry winter could portend an early start to another busy fire year. In fact, in the North Phoenix region and elsewhere, it has begun.

“Last year Daisy Mountain Fire & Medical units responded to 47 brushfires,” said DMFM spokesperson Paul Schickel. Though formal tallies from years past are not available, “some of our most senior firefighters think last year was our busiest wildland season since the mid- to late-1990s,” he said.

Last year, the first significant brush fires last year didn’t come until April. Already this February, DMFM has responded to “several smaller grass and brush fires,” Schickel said. “So we’re anticipating another active wildland fire season.” He stressed, however, that predicting fire activity is difficult.

State-Level Concern

State fire officials are casting a wary eye, too.

“This year’s unusually warm and dry winter is creating concern the 2018 wildfire season may start even earlier and be active throughout the state,” the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management said in a statement. Given “fire activity we have seen over the last few weeks,” State Forester Jeff Whitney planned to brief Gov. Doug Ducey today on the potential for 2018.

Last year across Arizona, 2,262 wildfires scorched more than 400,000 acres, the forestry department said. That was about 100,000 more than in 2016. The majority of the fires were human caused, according to the agency.

To prepare, officials encourage people to create a 20- to 30-foot defensible space around their homes. “Always put out your campfires, don’t drag tow chains, and never pull your vehicle off the highway into tall grasses,” the forestry department stated on Facebook today.

Close to Home

Cooperating with other agencies, DMFM responds to fires in New River, Desert Hills, undeveloped and developed parts of North Phoenix, and well up the I-17 corridor through Black Canyon City and the Sunset Point Rest Area. Among last year’s most notable wildfires in the area:

plane fire drop
A four-engine jet swooped over Tramonto, crossed I-17 and dropped retardant on the 303 Fire. Photo by Robert Roy Britt

The fast-moving 303 Fire, whipped up by gusty June winds near the Loop 303 and I-17, spread quickly northward toward the Carefree Highway, burning 1,676 acres. The fire closed the interstate for several hours, threatened to hop the highway toward a hospital, and spawned fire whirls that propelled the blaze forward.


fire from new river
New River resident Cyndy Di Venti took this photo of the glow from one of the Brooklyn fires, seen from outside her front door Friday night, July 7. Photo courtesy Cyndy Di Venti

The “Brooklyn Complex” fires in July burned 36,957 acres, created a glow visible at night from New River, and pushed smoke into Anthem and much of North Phoenix.


Several other brush fires along the I-17 corridor kept DMFM crews busy for much of the spring and summer last year.

arroyo norte fire
A full moon rose behind smoke from a small brush fire just north of Arroyo Norte July 8, 2017 as crews worked to extinguish it. Photo by Robert Roy Britt

fire near i-17 and bumble bee exit
A wildfire near I-17 and the Bumble Bee exit on Sunday, June 18, 2017 burned 1,400 acres. Image: DMFD

tee fire
The Tee Fire near Table Mesa north of Phoenix burned 1,200 acres June 10-11. Photo courtesy DMFD

black canyon city
A Black Canyon City fire burned not from homes May 28. It burned just 50 acres but sent smoke into North Phoenix. Photo by Robert Roy Britt

anthem wildfire in new river wash
Crews used a hose connected to an Anthem fire hydrant to battle a blaze in the New River Wash near Anthem homes April 21, 2017. Photo by Robert Roy Britt

dmfd thomas fire videoCLICK TO SEE VIDEO

DMFM routinely shares resources elsewhere in Arizona and even out of state. While deployed in California, local firefighter Jay Walter filmed dramatic video revealing the wicked winds, steep terrain and dangerous conditions a wildland firefighter faces.


Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels.
Robert Roy Britt on Email

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels.

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