By BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Friday signed a bill hastily passed in a special legislative session that provides $ 100 million in funding this year to fight wildfires, react to the damage they cause and create a new force of over 700 state inmates to clear the brush.
The Republican called the bill he signed on Capitol Hill as an important step in bringing relief to rural communities that have been hit by a series of wildfires this year.
âAs many Arizona residents know, we are in the midst of another catastrophic wildfire season,â Ducey said. âPeople and pets have been displaced, houses have been set on fire, vast areas of forest and desert have been decimated. It was horrible.
The $ 100 million credit includes $ 25 million to pay 720 state prisoners to clear brush and other flammable material under the direction of state forestry officials and some contract clearing operations. Ducey proposed these expenses in his January budget plan. The law provides money for these crews for the next two years, which adds $ 70 million in additional expenses.
There is also $ 75 million for firefighting efforts to help affected municipalities, people and landowners recover and prepare for flooding and other fallout from the big fires so far this winter season. fires.
The measures come as several large fires burn across the state, including one near the mining town of Globe is already among the top 10 ever seen in the state. On Friday morning, the blaze in the mountains 90 miles (144 kilometers) southeast of Phoenix consumed 275 square miles (712 square kilometers) of brush and wood. Several small communities were subject to evacuation orders and others were subject to evacuation warnings.
This great fire alone consumed 52 structures but is more than 70% contained. Other smaller fires are burning as a heat wave that started earlier this week continues. The temperatures are so high that large air tankers cannot always fly. A severe drought also dried up water sources that helicopters would normally have access to to jump into the flames.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who lost a home he was using as a family retreat to the fire, said he was impressed with the reaction from rural residents.
âWe are grateful for the communities, the way they come together, where they help each other and call each other,â Bowers said. âThis is an example of what rural people are doing under pressure. “
The bill has enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the legislature, although many Democrats have argued the state needs to take major action to respond to the climate change that is causing the drought. and the resulting fires.
Copyright 2021 The Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.