Here in the days well before spring and summer, local firefighters are already looking ahead to fire season.

With a dangerous outlook, they say now is the time to prepare your home to make sure it doesn’t burn.

“I’m expecting a pretty decent fire season locally, said K.P. Maxwell, the wildland coordinator for the Tucson Fire Department. If anyone is going to know how to keep your home safe from a wildfire, it’s him.

“In the desert we always have the potential to burn,” Maxwell said. “Fire needs fuel and dry conditions and wind, and we always have all of those three.”

He says for most houses, it’s not usually the big wall of fire that swallows them. It’s embers or burning twigs that spark off the fire, and fly onto the dry, flammable things that are too close to your home.

“That can be dry grass, it could be a birds nest, it could be dry vegetation, it could be your lawn furniture on your back porch,” Maxwell explained.

Together, he and Claire Graham checked out a home in the Foothills, where the family has a big outdoor garden. Most of plants in their yard are green, but with a few that have gotten a little dry.

“All of these leaves will get dropped,” Maxwell explained, pointing to some dry bougainvillea up against a wall. “So if we have fire that burns across the surface of the ground, especially from our winter rains and the weeds that get germinated, it acts as a ladder. So it takes fire from the ground, burns up through here, and even though we have a concrete or a stucco wall behind us, heat and fire rise so we can get up into the eaves of your house and catch the roof of your house on fire.”

So starting on the ground, he says you should have a foot and a half of gravel, concrete or dirt. Then moving up, make sure there’s a break in what can burn.

Another hazard we’re seeing this year, is a natural grass. Maxwell says it’s popping up all over town because of the wetter weather we’ve seen in this El Nio winter.

“Usually in the Sonoran Desert we just have soil, so fire doesn’t spread well. If it does spread, it’s just small little patches,” Maxwell explained. “But as those grasses dry out, they become continuous fuel on the floor of the desert. It’s just really important to get the dead vegetation away from the grasses themselves.”

There’s also a lot of that grass growing in the washes, which is especially a danger if your house backs up to one.

“I consider in washes in Tucson to be conduit for fire in the city,” Maxwell said, looking across the fence at this homeowner’s backyard. “This is a definite concern. We have a dead tree that should be removed, because that’s volatile fuel, and it just brings a lot of heat intensity near the home. What this homeowner has done correctly, is they’ve taken their woodpile, and they’ve pulled it away from the house, so it’s not on the porch.”

Maxwell says other steps you could take, are making sure there aren’t any dry birds nests or debris hidden under the arches of any Spanish tile on your roof. He says make sure you have a mental vent covering your fireplace flue, so sparks can’t easily get inside. If you have patio furniture, Maxwell says your best bet is get a set that is fire resistant. As for your roof, fence or porch, make sure there aren’t cracks in the wood, and in your yard, always maintain any plants so they don’t get overgrown and brittle.

But Maxwell says there’s also one major thing that could make your home particularly at risk, because fire likes to move upwards.

If you there’s a hill on the southwest side of your house, because of the winds we tend to get from the southwest in Tucson, Maxwell says it can be a recipe for extreme fire behavior. He says making sure there’s nothing that can burn on that hill or slope, is critical. And taking steps to prevent what could be a disaster, is really up to you.

“It’s really everybody’s responsibility to act as force,” Maxwell said. “We’re force multipliers, right? So if we educate and everybody does their part around their house, it really helps us out.”

If you’d like to see diagrams, a preparedness checklist, and more advice from the wildfire preparedness program, Firewise USA, you can go to