Ducey signs $100 million in emergency funding to fight wildfires
Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday signed off on $100 million in emergency funding aimed at alleviating the impact of wildfires that have ravaged rural Arizona this month.
The largest of the wildfires, the Telegraph Fire, has burned more than 176,000 acres, destroyed or damaged 51 structures and has caused the evacuation of multiple rural Arizona communities as of Friday.
"We are in the midst of another catastrophic wildfire season," Ducey said before the press Friday. "Unfortunately, this year hasn't been an outlier..
In 2020, there were more than 2,500 wildfires that burned nearly 1 million acres, a 154% increase from the previous year's fire season.
The new funding includes $24.6 million for a partnership between the Department of Forest and Fire Management and the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to remove high-risk vegetation that often leads to smaller wildfires rapidly increasing in size.
The remaining $75 million will fund additional fire suppression efforts and post-fire relief, including economic assistance for those impacted by wildfires and combating flooding in areas damaged by fires.
Ducey said his visit to Globe, which was threatened by the Telegraph Fire, was a pivotal moment in making him realize the need for assisting those impacted by wildfires in rural communities.
Globe lawmaker David Cook, who was present at the bill signing ceremony, was told earlier this month to evacuate his home as he was casting the deciding vote against a massive tax cut for wealthy Arizonans that doomed a Republican-led budget proposal. Ducey said he was thankful to Cook and House Speaker Rusty Bowers for their leadership on the issue.
Bowers also lost a family cabin in Gila County in the Telegraph Fire. Bowers spoke about the compassion and hard work he has seen from others since the fire broke out.
"It's an example of what rural folks do under pressure," Bowers said of how local communities have come together to help each other.
The bills had bipartisan support and some members of the Democratic party were present as Ducey signed them into law to voice their support for the measures and hope for future cooperation.
House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding praised the legislation and the bipartisan manner in which it was passed. He also said that lawmakers "must do everything in our power to mitigate" climate change, which he said is the root cause of the increasingly intense annual fire seasons.
Severe droughts and record breaking temperatures combine for issues that scientists have predicted will create worse and worse conditions for wildfires, and NASA satellite data has already begun to show how climate change is impacting wildfires in the United States.
Ducey did not take questions from the media, but said he is optimistic the legislature will continue to work together, alluding to the continuing budget talks that have stalled due to a lack of support.
"I am extremely proud of the government system that came together in such a short time to answer the call of the people," Cook told the Arizona Mirror when asked about the wildfire bills. "There is more that can be done but we need to help the people now..
For more information on the Telegraph fire and emergency information call 480-608-2054 or visit ein.az.gov.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.