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Over Memorial Day weekend, Verde Valley residents dealt with smoke from the Snake Ridge Fire, currently burning about 8,000 acres east of Camp Verde.

Prevailing winds on Friday and Saturday blew smoke west into Camp Verde, Rimrock and the Village of Oak Creek and by Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the smoke reached most of the Verde Valley from Cottonwood and Clarkdale to Sedona. Yes, we are in the middle of fire season.

This is the approximate time when we enter the height of wildfires in our area. Three years ago, we were in the midst of the 21,227-acre Slide Fire which had ignited on May 20, and was 100 percent contained on June 5. The Slide Fire happened right at the start of fire season and burned heavy through Memorial Day weekend. The 2006 Brins Fire burned 4,317 acres on Brins Mesa, Wilson Mountain and Oak Creek Canyon from June 18, 2006, to containment June 28, 2006. The 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, in which 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died, burned from June 28 to July 10, 2013. The firefighters were killed early in the blaze, on June 30, when the fire was still burning wildly out of control.

The official start of the monsoon is June 15 but the technical start of the monsoon is when we get three consecutive days with a dew point above 55 degrees. Meteorologists are predicting a slightly drier monsoon than in recent years due to normal water temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean, meaning fewer days of rain and less precipitation, thus the reprieve we get from fire season may be less likely to occur.

If southern Arizona stays warm and high pressure fronts develop there, monsoon storms will be more likely to push through the barrier and rain when they reach the Mogollon Rim. The Snake Ridge Fire will likely be the first of many lightning-caused fires to start in Northern Arizona.

Hopefully these blazes will be in remote areas rather than threatening homes or communities, but either way, we will see far more days for smoke-filled skies than in previous years.

It is still vitally important to clear plant debris from your yard, especially if you live near a wildland-urban interface. Keep in mind that even if your home is safely in the middle of town, defensible space is no less important.

Fires from burning embers, unextinguished cigarettes, kids playing with matches or even the occasional lightning strike can still cause a blaze on adjacent property that can spread to your home in just a few minutes.

It is far easier for firefighters to save your house if there’s not a burning fuel source feet away from your walls or roof. If you can smell smoke in the air, limit your outdoor activities as heavy particulates in the air can cause breathing problems.

We will post updates, maps and photos of nearby fire on our websites, redrocknews.com and journalaz.com and our Facebook pages, sedonanews and cottonwoodnews so readers know what blazes may be nearby. Most importantly, if you see smoke or fire in the Verde Valley call 911 and report it to your local fire agency.

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