- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - With triple-digit temperatures returning to Arizona this week, forest officials are mounting defenses to limit the growth of several small wildfires burning across the state.

A high-pressure system moving into the Southwest is expected to bring sweltering temperatures likely to peak above 110 degrees Friday and Saturday in southern parts of the state, according to the National Weather Service.

The hot, arid weather will also affect the high country by drying out pine needles, grasses and logs on the forest floor, thus making more fuel for fires burning in Coconino and Tonto national forests.

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service say they have the fires under control and are anticipating the changes in weather.

“I have no doubt in my mind that they are aware that this is coming and are planning for this weather system,” said Carrie Templin, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman for Tonto National Forest. “It’s June. It’s Arizona. It’s hot, and it’s dry. That’s normal.”

The state’s four largest wildfires that are still burning were all started by lightning. The largest is the Juniper Fire, which has scorched more than 6,600 acres in Tonto National Forest near Young, Arizona.

Three more fires are burning in Coconino National Forest. Each has burned less than 3,000 acres, and they are relatively small compared with some of the state’s largest fires such as the Wallow Fire, which burned nearly 550,000 acres in 2011.

Fire managers decided it’s better to allow the fires to burn to help thin the forest, Templin said.

This year’s wet weather in Arizona’s high country has helped to minimize the growth of the fires and helped fire officials to control the burns to remove vegetation and reduce the risk of a more severe fire.

“There are a lot of areas in the state of Arizona that need to be restored to a more natural condition, whether that is by mechanical thinning or fires,” Templin said.

Still, Forestry officials are urging campers and hikers to take care in putting out camp fires. Campers need to douse camp fires in water and dirt then stir until they are cool to the touch, Templin said.

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