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Arizona Legislature to consider $100M investment for wildfire prevention

Telegraph Fire (Facebook photo/Telegraph Fire Information)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Legislature will convene for a special session on Tuesday and is expected to vote later in the week on a proposal that would invest $100 million to combat and prevent wildfires.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, state fire professionals and legislative leadership put together the target investment with a focus on wildfire preparedness and response and recovery in consultation with impacted local communities, according to a press release.

The proposal includes $75 million for fire suppression efforts, recovery efforts such as post-fire floods, economic assistance for those displaced as well as assistance to landowners for emergency repairs while $24.6 million will go toward a partnership where state prisoners will conduct hazardous vegetation removal.

“This wildfire season has already been devastating, and we still have a long, hot summer ahead of us,” Ducey said in the release.

“While Arizona has strong wildfire suppression and prevention efforts in place, we need to do more.”

Three ongoing wildfires in the state have already consumed more than 170,000 acres and resulted in evacuations and destroyed structures.

One of the wildfires, the Telegraph Fire, destroyed a family cabin of House Speaker Rusty Bowers. Ducey previously said Bowers had the idea of holding a special session to address the wildfires.

“I know firsthand how devastating the wildfires are this year,” Bowers said in the release. “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.”

Ducey previously issued Declarations of Emergency for both the Telegraph and Mescal fires, making available up to $400,000 for response efforts.

Fire officials are making progress on the Telegraph and Mescal fires, with the Telegraph Fire up to 74% containment while the Mescal is at 88% containment and has not grown in size over the past four days.

The Slate Fire in northern Arizona has consumed 10,677 acres as of Monday morning and was 23% contained, authorities said.

The special session is occurring along with the regular session that has been stalled over the inability to reach a deal on the state budget, with lawmakers trying to get enough votes to pass a $12.8 billion budget that contains massive tax cuts Republican legislative leaders negotiated with Ducey.

It marks the third special session since Ducey took office in 2015, according to the release, with the governor saying it will help focus lawmakers on a single subject that has bipartisan support.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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