PHOENIX — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar tells 92.3 KTAR there have been larger wildfires in the past but hundreds of homes have been lost in Colorado and New Mexico largely because of population growth in the past 20 years.
“The difference is we’re now seeing these fires come closer where people now live. Much of that growth has taken place in wildland areas, which means more homes and people are exposed to danger,” he said.
Arizona firefighters are dealing with a handful of fires, including one east of Flagstaff that has burned more than 5,000 acres. At this time it is not threatening homes.
“What brought us here is as much an act of God when you think of such a dry year in the Colorado River Basin. That’s just the reality of it and when you have this type of dry year you have these conditions,” Salazar said.
Among the Arizona communities that have built heavily into the timber, living with the risk of serious wildfire every summer include Flagstaff, Payson and Show Low.
Salazar said there are plenty of firefighters on hand to deal with what is ahead.
“We continue our resources around and we have standby firefighters in places like Alaska that we can bring in along with more air tankers and other equipment.”