A new wildfire season is here. So far so good. Arizona saw a significant drop in wildfires after an exceptionally wet winter.
But the news is not all cheerful. A rainy winter means fire risks will be higher this year as lush new vegetation dries. On top of that, a 19-year-drought in the region also increases the risk.
Gov. Doug Ducey, congressional members, fire and forest officials, and many others have stepped up repeatedly in the past year to prevent disasters like Paradise, California, one of the world’s deadliest fires last November. The estimated cost is over $16 billion.
“Wet winters can mean very dangerous summers. That’s because more precipitation brings more fuel vegetation which increases fire danger,” Gov. Ducey said when he met with top fire leaders this month to thank firefighters and publicize the need for awareness.
Ducey has made it one of his top priorities to prevent fires, initiating funding, programs and public-private partnerships to clean up hazardous fuels, thin out forests and ensure Arizona is an attractive place for forest industries to do business. See what’s happening at: Wildfire Prevention projects.
In tandem, U.S. Sens. Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema are pushing Congress and the Department of Agriculture to move faster on a forest management timeline to thin out forests to protect lives and protect watershed.=
On April 9, Sen. McSally pressed the U.S. Department of Agriculture about mismanagement of forests in Arizona. During a U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing to examine the president’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request, McSally requested that the U.S. Forest Service provide specific and measurable updates on a timeline to manage Arizona’s forests.
“I am proud to say my state of Arizona is home to one of the most innovative approaches to forest management in the country – the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI,” said McSally. “4FRI is a collaborative effort to thin 1 million acres across four of Arizona’s national forests. To date, progress under Phase 1 has been disappointing, to say the least, with barely 11,000 acres thinned since 2012. Now, the Forest Service is developing a Request for Proposal for Phase 2 of 4FRI, which could run as large as 500,000 acres.
“We hope that you all will learn from the mistakes made in Phase 1 and award a contract that will expeditiously remove the low-value timber from our fire-prone forests at large, landscape-scale levels.”
Citizens are the key to preventing tragedy
Most fires are caused by human activity, Ducey said during the meeting with fire officials.
“Our message is simple follow the law or face the consequences,” he said.
Arizona has a sad history when it comes to wildfires. Few will ever forget June 30, 2013 when 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots lost their lives during the Yarnell fire that raced through the area on strong winds. Another fire, the Dude Fire, took the lives of six firefighters on June 26, 1990 in Walk Moore Canyon north of Payson.
To prevent more tragedies, state leaders are calling for citizens to increase their awareness in 2019. Here some tools:
A new app for citizens This free application offers citizens access to real-time wildfire information, they can also send in tips and sign up for alerts. Download the app from iTunes or Google Play by searching for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
Simple tips to practice:
- Always extinguish campfires
- Dispose of cigarettes and matches properly
- Never drag chains on the roadway
- Never fly drones in or around an active wildfire area