VALLEY TO BE WILD FOR FLOWER LOVERS, BAD FOR ALLERGY SUFFERERS HEAVY WINTER RAINS ALSO BRING FIRE THREAT
January 9, 2005
Section: VALLEY & State
Edition: Final Chaser
VALLEY TO BE WILD FOR FLOWER LOVERS, BAD FOR ALLERGY SUFFERERS
HEAVY WINTER RAINS ALSO BRING FIRE THREAT
Diana Balazs, The Arizona Republic
Load the camera, grab that garden hoe and stock up on tissue. The Valley's wet weather guarantees a spectacular wildflower display this spring but also a severe brush fire and allergy season.
Experts at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix predict the wildflower season could rival the last good show in 2001.
"I would think with the rains that we've gotten and the spacing of them that it should be pretty comparable," said Kirti Mathura, a horticulturist with the garden.
Mathura predicts plenty of blooming poppies this year, as well as lupine, brittlebush, owl clover, blue dick, chuparosa, and fairy duster.
Angelica Elliot is the curator of wildflowers at the Desert Botanical Garden. In the past, she had to water the garden's two-mile wildflower trail to guarantee blooms. This fall, she watered after sowing the trail's seeds in October and hasn't since.
"With this rain that we got last week, there is still stuff coming up that I didn't see before," she said.
Bob Khan, a Phoenix Fire Department assistant chief, predicts a busy brush fire season when the rain-fed desert growth dries out. Last year, Phoenix responded to 674 brush, grass and field fires, most caused by discarded smoking materials such as cigarettes or children playing with matches, he said.
Khan anticipates more campaign fires, which last a day or longer, involve more than 10 acres and require a lot of staff and equipment to control.
"The conditions are ripe for campaign fires. We hope we can get in front of it and keep them small and minimize the damage," he said.
Residents can protect their properties by clearing a 30-foot firebreak around their homes, Khan said. That includes ridding yards of desert grasses, which have sprouted from the storms.
Mathura said the invasive grasses could easily catch fire when dry, with the flames spreading to other desert growth. She also suggested that residents should pull their wildflowers before they dry to avoid a potential fire.
Many residents sow their entire yards with the blooms.
The rains also will fuel a severe allergy season beginning next month, with the peak season in March and April, said Dr. Laura Ispas-Ponas, an allergist and immunologist who directs the Sonoran Allergy and Asthma Center in Scottsdale.
"I do feel like we are going to have lots of problems with our grass pollen," she said.
Ditto for mold spores, which are already multiplying, and tree pollen from mesquite, cottonwood, olive, mulberry, and others, she added.
Allergy sufferers should watch the rise in pollen and mold counts, check in with their doctors now, and start their medications early, Ispas-Ponas said.
She also suggests limiting outdoor activity, wearing a mask during yard work, washing clothes after being outside, running high-efficiency air purifiers, changing furnace and air-conditioner filters often and keeping windows closed.
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