Guest Editorial: Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires

By Scottsdale Pinetop

If the weather feels a little toastier than usual, that’s because it is. This past weekend temperatures skyrocketed and reached 110 degrees for the first time in 2021, kicking off a weeklong excessive heat warning with temperatures expected to reach 117 degrees. There’s a reason it’s called “the Arizona Heat.” This means bad news for firefighters who are already overwhelmed as they tackle major fires across the state including the raging Telegraph Fire just south of Globe.

The 2021 fire season is already showing signs of being “severe” and expected to be on par with last year’s season, which was the worst first season in a decade. Unfortunately, this isn’t anything new for Arizona’s northern residents.

The Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2011 burned nearly 469,000 acres and destroyed 1,200 homes. The Wallow Fire burned over 538,000 acres, surpassing the Rodeo-Chediski Fire as the worst forest fire in Arizona’s history. These memories run deep for the residents of the White Mountains.

So what are Arizona’s officials doing to prepare for a grueling summer season?

“This wildfire season has already been devastating, and we still have a long, hot summer ahead of us,” said Governor Doug Ducey during his tour of the fires in south-central Arizona as he also called for a special session to focus on the issue.

In response, the Arizona Legislature will convene this week in a special session to consider adding $100 million in funding for fire prevention, wildfire fighting and damages as a result of fire-ravaged mountains. But is it enough?

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, humans cause an average of 68% of fires per year in the United States. Of those human-started fires, 2.8 million acres burn each year. In 2018, 8,767,492 acres burned due to human-started and lightning strikes.

Regardless of full-time, part-time, season resident or tourist, fire safety is everyone’s reasonability – especially in places like the White Mountains which serve as a nice getaway from the desert heat. A reminder that if we kill our forests, we kill a special part of Arizona’s identity. Let’s all do our part to make sure that doesn’t happen.