State and federal fire officials warned that two years of extreme drought, plus unusually hot and dry weather this year may compound and extend the wildfire season in southern Nevada.
"The fires will be coming year-round. It's not just a few months out of the year anymore," said Bob Trodahl, fire chief with the National Park Service at Lake Mead.
Trodahl and other fire officials aired their concerns Tuesday at the Bureau of Land Management's Red Rock Fire Station west of Las Vegas. The fire station is near where a 1,500-acre wildfire burned along state Highway 159 in September.
Officials said they were particularly worried the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area and Mount Charleston could be at high risk because of the large number of dry trees in an area that gets frequent summer lightning strikes.
Precipitation for Las Vegas for the year to date is nearly 2 inches less than normal, and recent high temperatures have been 10 degrees higher than average. The warmer- and drier-than-usual weather is expected to continue, officials said.
Trodahl said the early start to wildfire season in other parts of the nation, such as Florida and Georgia, may affect the availability of firefighting resources in southern Nevada.
Kevin Oliver, fire management officer with the BLM, said officials expect an "above average" number of fires this year, but not as severe as 2006, when 1,247 wildland fires burned 1.3 million acres in Nevada.
Nationally, analysts have put the wildfire danger for May through August similar to last year, when a record 9.8 million acres burned, 2,300 buildings were destroyed, fire suppression costs totaled $1.4 billion, and 24 wildland firefighters died.
In southern Nevada, state and federal agencies are restricting campfires, smoking and fireworks on federal lands, citing dry vegetation.
Campfires are allowed in developed recreational sites where fees are charged and in grills on developed picnic areas of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and a few other places.
Welding or operating acetylene torches with open flames, detonating explosives without a permit and shooting tracer bullets are also prohibited, with violations punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)