PHOENIX (AP) — As two large wildfires continue to burn in south-central Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday called a special session of the state Legislature to boost wildfire funding.
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 lingering problems.
“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.”
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 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.
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 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 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 that it will be in the millions of dollars.
Ducey made the announcement 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.
On Monday, Bowers lost his longtime family retreat home in the blaze. It was among five structures that were destroyed in one of the fires burning near Globe and Miami.
“With what’s happened up on the mountain, it’s gonna be a bad, bad summer if we get a heavy monsoon, which we need,” Bowers said Thursday. “And so, we’re here to help.”
Whether Ducey actually needed to call a special session is doubtful. The Arizona Legislature remains in session as lawmakers try to get enough votes to pass a $12.8 billion budget and massive tax cuts that Republican legislative leaders negotiated with the governor. At least two GOP lawmakers and all Democrats oppose the tax cuts, leading to weeks of no movement on the budget.
Ducey said a special session will help focus lawmakers on a single subject that has bipartisan support even as they are deadlocked on the budget.