Gila Herald | The Mescal Fire and Telegraph Fire have both burned more than 30,000 acres each and have forced thousands of evacuations.

A band-aid on a bullet wound — Arizona’s moderate progress with local wildfires

Arizona is facing five different wildfires amidst a long-term drought. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey proposes a wildfire fund, but is it enough for the desiccated summer ahead?

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In the midst of five separate wildfires that have set 300,000 acres ablaze, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey proposed a $100 million fund to support and assist wildfire prevention. 75 percent of this fund will be used to fight fires, impede floods —​ which usually occur in the aftermath of a fire —​ and assist any citizen displaced by structural damage. The other 25 percent will reduce vegetation that could spread the fires.

“State Legislative Leaders and I have agreed to invest $100 million to combat and prevent wildfires, equip firefighters and communities with the resources they need, and prepare for after-effects such as flooding and mudslides,” Deucy wrote in a tweet. “This special session will ensure our state is ready to combat this season’s wildfires and address potentially deadly after-effects. The Legislature will convene tomorrow and is expected to vote on the proposal later this week.”

After touring two large fires burning in south-central Arizona, Ducey sought to bring awareness to the troubling climate that the Arizonan people have endured.

Ducey later tweeted, “We can get this done — and we can do it in an urgent, bipartisan manner. Thank you to Legislative leadership for coming together to develop an investment package that will help so many Arizonans.“

House Speaker Rusty Bowers voiced his opinion on the situation on Jun. 13, 2021, where he talked about how firefighters have used up their funding for the past, present and coming years. He estimated that they will need $10 million to $20 million for fire suppression and $50 million for the recovery of the state grounds in the aftermath of a fierce blaze.

“I know firsthand how devastating the wildfires are this year,” Bowers said in a statement as reported by the Associated Press. “Families have been displaced, nonprofits are working hard to support those in need, and firefighters are working day and night to contain fires.”

“We need to make sure they have the financial resources to get through this wildfire season and prepare for the future,” he claimed.

Arizona faced one of its worst fire seasons in 2020, with almost 3,000 wildfires burning less than 1,000,000 acres of state and tribal land —​ almost 88 percent of the fires were human-caused.

The 2,520 wildfires of last year led to the existence of S.4431: The Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020 — which was approved by congress on Aug. 4, 2020. The Public Safety Act addresses wildfire preparedness and response. As stated in the bill, it excludes certain forest management activities from environmental review requirements, provides grants, loans and loan guarantees to support biomass conversion facilities and allows the export of unprocessed timber of dead and dying trees from federal land in California.

While Arizona must enact this bill, it was not specified to appeal to any state besides California —​ which faced a record-breaking season last year of 9,639 wildfires burning 4,397,809 acres.

This year, Arizona’s seven wildfires have not come close to the towering tally of its past year, but it still proves a threat to the Arizonan people.

2021 Arizona wildfire season already burning more than 6 of the last 20  years
Courtesy of Tonto National Forest

The Wildfires of June 2021

The Telegraph Fire

The Telegraph fire is the sixth-largest fire in the history of Arizona.

On Jun. 16’s morning report, statistics show that the fire burned 148,299 acres at only 68 percent containment.

Due to its devastating combustion, the Gila County Sheriff’s office issued a “Go” evacuation order on both sides of Route 77, Dripping Springs, Wind Spirit, Hagen Ranch, Slash S Ranch, El Capitan and Government Springs Ranch.

The Mescal Fire

The Mescal fire has luckily alleviated after igniting on June 1st at the Globe. It has burned 72,250 acres and is at 88 percent containment. Earlier this week, the fire merged with none other than the Telegraph, which was 72 percent contained at the time, reports say. The Telegraph is currently headed south after meeting with extreme weather conditions.

The other three

The lesser-known Cornville, Slate and Pinnacle fires are all still active and spreading across the state. These three fires destroyed more than 23,000 acres, and they’re growing ever more slightly each day.

The Cornville fire, which first ignited on Sunday, has thankfully been put under control after burning up to 10,000 acres, according to Inciweb​.

“Firefighters have done good work the last couple of days on suppression efforts around the community,” Incident Commander Trainee Charles Ebert says.

The Pinnacle fire caused evacuations on Thursday in south-eastern Arizona towns, authorities say. It has consumed 17,453 acres and was first spotted on June 10. Containment is now at 15 percent, according to the latest incident command report.​

Parts of the Coconino National Forest are closed due to Flagstaff’s Slate wildfire. It covers up to 10,600 acres in the national forest.

While all five fires were quickly detained, many Arizonans have expressed their frustration with how the local government has handled such blazes, naming the legislature they passed earlier this week a “Band-Aid on a Bullet Wound​.”

Even though hope can be seen upon the horizon, people’s skies are clouded by smoke, judgment and denial in their own government. These fires not only prove a threat to communities in the state, but they also prove a threat to the local government’s reputation with its people.

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