Federal officials unveil 10-year strategy to mitigate wildfires in Arizona, other states

Jan 18, 2022, 3:00 PM

The Telegraph Fire consumed more than 180,000 acres southeast of Superior, Arizona, in June 2021. (...

The Telegraph Fire consumed more than 180,000 acres southeast of Superior, Arizona, in June 2021. (InciWeb Photo)

(InciWeb Photo)

PHOENIX – Federal officials on Tuesday unveiled a 10-year strategy to mitigate the growing threat of wildfires in Arizona and other susceptible states.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Randy Moore were in Phoenix to launch the strategy along with U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly.

The initiative calls for increased use of controlled fires and logging to reduce growth that could fuel flames in areas identified as “firesheds,” where wildfires have the highest potential of destroying homes, communities and infrastructure.

“The negative impacts of today’s largest wildfires far outpace the scale of efforts to protect homes, communities and natural resources,” Vilsack said, according to a press release from Kelly’s office.

“Our experts expect the trend will only worsen with the effects of a changing climate, so working together toward common goals across boundaries and jurisdictions is essential to the future of these landscapes and the people who live there.”

Details about the strategy and how it will be implemented were posted online in conjunction with the announcement.

The work will focus on hotspots that make up only 10% of the fire-prone areas across the U.S. but account for 80% of risk to communities because of their population densities and locations.

The recently passed federal infrastructure bill provides about $3 billion that will be used toward getting the proposal started.

“There’s no question that focusing on the science, data and facts is the best approach to improving how we manage our forests, especially in Arizona,” Kelly said in the release.

“I’m glad that the USDA and Forest Service have made this renewed commitment to work with states, tribes, and localities to prioritize projects that reduce extreme wildfire behavior and protect our water resources.”

Three of the 10 largest wildfires in Arizona history occurred in the past two years, the Bush and Bighorn fires in 2020 and last year’s Telegraph Fire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Federal officials unveil 10-year strategy to mitigate wildfires in Arizona, other states