Governor tours Arizona fires, calls for special session

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In this photo provided by Rusty Bowers, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers walks through the remains of his family's weekend home on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, that was destroyed by a wildfire the day before. Bowers used the home in the remote mountains as a family retreat and often did his artwork there. (Elijah Cardon/Rusty Bowers via AP)

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday called a special session of the state Legislature to boost wildfire funding as two large wildfires continue to burn in south-central Arizona.

The Republican governor wants the Legislature to approve extra money to ensure that firefighters have the resources they need across the drought-ravaged state and to address the problems the fires will trigger once they are out.

“Now it's clear that we’ve got a lot more work to do and the response will not end even when these fires are out,” Ducey said. “When this year’s monsoon rains come, these burned areas are prone to landslides, mudslides and flooding, which pose another threat to this community."

Arizona is not alone in reporting large wildfires this year, as much of the U.S. Southwest is deep into a prolonged drought. The National Interagency Fire Center on Thursday reported that so far this year, 23 large fires have burned across nearly 400 square miles (1,036 square kilometers) of wildlands in nine states. New large fires were reported Wednesday in California, Colorado, Michigan and Utah.

The largest fires currently burning are in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, states hit exceptionally hard by the drought.

About 1,600 firefighters are battling the two large Arizona fires that broke out early this month and have burned at least 245 square miles (636 square kilometers) of grass, chaparral and pinyon pine forest in rugged terrain. The fires are burning west of Superior, Globe, Miami and other mining towns about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of Phoenix.

The special session is expected to be held next week. The governor did not announce how much money he will request, besides mentioning it will be in the millions.

Ducey made the announcement as he visited south-central Arizona after traveling with House Speaker Rusty Bowers and another lawmaker to the area where crews supported by aircraft are working to keep the fires out of Globe and several other communities in Gila and Pinal counties.