By Corinne Murdock |
Following Governor Doug Ducey’s announcement last week that the Biden Administration failed to award bids for forest and wildfire management, the Arizona House announced Monday a new ad hoc committee to undertake that task themselves. Members of the committee include State Representatives Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), Tim Dunn (R-Yuma), Andres Cano (D-Tucson), and Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson), with House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) serving as the chairman.
Ducey’s statement came a day after the Biden Administration suddenly canceled solicitations for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI). The 4FRI aimed to restore fire-adaptive ecosystems in the Southwestern Region. The Biden Administration decided that the requirement for the restoration objectives weren’t “reasonably aligned to industry needs.”
In response, Ducey said that the Biden Administration’s decision put Arizonans at risk.
“The federal government’s lack of action is frustrating. The federal mismanagement of our forests poses an ongoing risk,” stated Ducey. “But Arizonans should know that we remain proactive in our pursuit of forest health and disaster prevention. We will continue to work with federal and community partners and safety personnel to protect people, pets and property.”
With this new ad hoc committee, the state government will be able to take action where the federal government won’t at present.
Wildfires have long been a plague for the Grand Canyon State. Arizona contains the key elements for one of these natural disasters to begin: high temperatures and drought that dry out vegetation, combined with low humidity and high winds. With those conditions in place, many things can ignite a wildfire: the sun’s heat, lightning strikes, discarded cigarettes or matches, unattended campfires, or fireworks, for example.
The worst wildfire in recent memory was the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, which claimed the lives of 19 firefighters. The high winds caused the fire to shift suddenly, intensifying the fire and cutting off the firefighters’ only escape route.
The tragedy of those Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters inspired “Hotshots 19,” an annual memorial workout completed nationwide in May consisting of 6 rounds of 30 air squats, 19 power cleans at either 135 pounds for men or 95 pounds for women, 7 strict pull-ups, and a 400 meter run. The firefighters were known as “hotshots” because they were part of a “hotshot crew”: a team of 20 individuals assigned to handle the hottest part of wildfires.
This year, wildfires have occurred near the Juniper Mountains, the Verde River, and the Bradshaw Mountains in Yavapai County (Rock Butte Fires, Rafael Fire, and Tiger Fire); the Gila River and Pinal Mountains in Graham County (Bottom Fire and Pinnacle Fire, respectively); the Santa Rita Mountains in Pima County (Heavy Fire); and the southern border in Pima County (Alamo Fire).