Governor Ducey announced that he has called a special session of the state Legislature to help combat the wildfires that are currently plaguing the state by providing $100 million in emergency funding. The funds will go towards wildfire prevention and suppression.
The legislature will officially vote on this package later this week, but the deal itself has already been drafted: $75 million for firefighting, “flooding that often occurs” after fires, support for displaced communities and damaged infrastructure; and $25 million for forest management and the reduction of vegetation that is conducive to wildfire spread. The package is bipartisan, and was constructed by legislators and forestry officials.
Residents of Globe and other affected towns facing the bad fire season are evacuating their homes as firefighters address the raging blaze. The largest of the fires is out east in Globe, while other fires are occurring in the Northern region of the state. Some of the fires are originating in southern Nevada, New Mexico on the east, and even at the US- Mexico Border. The immediate emergency funding should help the state start to get this under control.
The drought facing Arizona, as well as the lack of rainfall, only make the severity and frequency of wildfires worse. There’s no forecast for rain on the horizon.
What can we learn from California’s legislature in dealing with the fires?
During the recent disastrous wildfires in California, the state Legislature along with Gov. Gavin Newsom provided over $230 million to help stop the fires. California is without a doubt a larger land mass than Arizona, but even then environmental groups were calling on the state to invest several billions in wildfire suppression and prevention efforts.
As of earlier this calendar year, California began creating a $2+ billion bond to invest in the prevention of future wildfires. A long-term plan, California is preparing for decades of drought, severe wildfires, and further ecological devastation.
This $100 million in emergency funding may just be the beginning of the state’s investments in wildfire prevention and suppression over the next several decades. Arizona policymakers and lawmakers may have to look towards the long-term after this bad fire season is addressed.
Michael O’Connor is the chief political correspondent for the Western Tribune.