PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced late Monday that state legislative leaders are expected to vote this week on a proposal to invest nearly $100 million to "combat and prevent wildfires, equip firefighters and communities with the resources they need, and prepare for after effects such as flooding and mudslides."
Last week, Gov. Ducey said he would call state leaders into a special session to address the state's firefighting efforts after he took a tour of the Telegraph and Mescal fires burning south of Phoenix, near Globe.
The state Legislature was expected to reconvene on Tuesday, June 15, and vote on the proposal later this week, a news release from the Governor's Office said.
“This wildfire season has already been devastating, and we still have a long, hot summer ahead of us," Gov. Ducey said in a written statement. "While Arizona has strong wildfire suppression and prevention efforts in place, we need to do more."
"Our brave firefighters must have all the necessary tools, resources and support to fight the blazes and stay safe. We need to protect our communities from floods and other disasters that could result from these wildfires. Hard-hit communities and nonprofits offering support need financial assistance to weather the devastation of this wildfire season and protect families in need," his statement said.
"We blew through our 2021 budget in the first day. 2022 budget is gone. It's already spent," said Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers.
"Right now it's extremely important that those impacted get the support that they need," said House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding Jr.
According to the Governor's Office, the proposal will consist of two targeted investments:
- $24.6 million to the Department of Forest and Fire Management and the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to reduce wildfire risk through hazardous vegetation removal
- $75 million for fire suppression efforts, recovery efforts including post-fire floods, economic assistance for those displaced, and assistance to landowners for emergency repairs to infrastructure damaged by wildfires.
As of Monday, the Telegraph Fire has burned more than 90,000 areas and is 74% contained, and the Mescal Fire has burned more than 74,000 acres and is 88% contained.
Speaker Bowers says the money will be there eventually. This special session deals with the immediate need. "I see in my mind we could spend $60 million this year, " Speaker Bowers said. "So I want to make sure I have a buffer moving forward to next year."
Most recently, a fire sparked south of Sedona, in Cornville, Arizona, and was estimated to be 1,200 acres and growing. The Slate Fire is burning 23 miles north of Flagstaff and had grown to 10,000 acres.