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Jun 13, 2012 7:16 PM

Monsoon awareness week brings back Aspen fire memories

TUCSON - It is Monsoon Safety Awareness Week, and one of the weather hazards associated with the monsoon is wildfires.

You can still see the devastation let by the Aspen fire nearly 10 years ago.

Residents said it was one of the worst experiences in their life.

During the monsoon, a small fire can be fanned out into a devastating wildfire with the high winds associated with the monsoon.

Pamela Selby-Harmon lost her home in the 2003 Summerhaven Aspen fire.

"I compared it to watching my father die," said Selby-Harmon.

It's a home she had lived in for 16 years where she raised her three kids.

"It was horrid. It was horrid," she said.

She said it was a miracle no one was seriously injured as they evacuated the village, but she did lose something very dear to her.

"Mine and our kids..we lost all of our baby photos," said Selby-Harmon. "You know those things that you think of but you don't think of."

Bob Zimmerman of Mt. Lemmon Realty also lost his home in the fire.

"The fire spread up and took our house up and had combusted internally," said Zimmerman.

Summerhaven residents are still recovering from these sad memories and hope people keep in mind that during the monsoon, there is a double threat for wildfires.

"Don't be careless," said Selby-Harmon.

Mt. Lemmon fire chief Randy Ogden said during the monsoon, it's just as easy for a lightning strike to start a wildfire as it is to be human-caused.

"With the brush and the trees as dry as they are and with the associated wind storms, it can spread pretty rapidly," said Chief Ogden.

Due to the dry climate of Arizona, wildfires are a threat year-round, but dry lightning strikes during monsoons can ignite dry fuels.

The monsoon winds also spread fire rapidly.

There are a few things that you can do to protect your home from the direct impact of wildfire:

*Use construction materials that are non-combustible or fire resistant.

*Inspect your property by clearing any dead wood or dense vegetation within 30 feet from your home.

*Keep plants properly trimmed.

*Store flammable liquids properly.

To protect the forest, check park restrictions before heading out.

Here is the latest list of fire restrictions released from the Coronado National Forest:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/coronado/news-events/?cid=STELPRDB5372160

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