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Wildfire committee, Arizona lawmakers meet to review future wildfire management

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Posted at 10:08 PM, Nov 09, 2021

PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers met Tuesday to discuss whether or not laws or regulations around wildfires, specifically how fires are managed to oversite, need to change.

This comes after the state saw another devastating year after multiple wildfires burned thousands of areas.

One of those fires named the "Telegraph Fire," sparked over the summer and became one of the largest wildfires in the state's history. Sparking in Superior, Arizona, east of Phoenix, the fire burned more than 180,000 acres.

The Forest and Wildfire Management ad hoc committee, which is made up of state lawmakers, met in Globe, Arizona, and heard testimonies from the mayors of Globe and Superior, two cities that were heavily impacted by the Telegraph Fire.

The committee will examine if wildfire laws need to change and whether more regulations are needed, specifically regarding gaps in insurance coverage for those impacted by post-fire flooding.

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Tari Infante and Todd Strawdinger lost their home, which had been recently renovated to be their retirement home in El Capitan, Arizona, in Gila County.

“We’re still dealing with the aftermath, the flooding, the mudslides, working with insurance; not only is there a gap to replace the home, there’s a gap to replace belongings,” said Infante.

She said they recently had the remaining rubbled from their property, but it will likely be another year or two before they will have a home to move back into.

Brenda Blaine said she lost a family cabin — a homestead that was part of the family for four decades — in the Telegraph Fire. That cabin was a memory of her mother who died in 2015.

“This was my second home,” she said, “I feel like I lost her when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, lost her when she died, and this felt like the third time.”

She said she was told by U.S. Forest Service workers that a backburn, a strategy to eliminate fuel sources during an active fire, was ignited near her cabin. "They did the backburn, they left it on fire, and when they came back the next morning, it was gone," she said.

The burnt remains of her home are still there, months after the fire happened. Blaine said she has yet to hear from the U.S. Forest Service about what happened.

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"It's a very isolating process with very little resources to turn to on what steps are next," she said.

The next meeting is scheduled for January 2022 in Phoenix.