Historic Arizona wildfire season devastates flora, fauna

Andrew Phillips, News Editor

Arizona’s dry and sweltering environment is a perfect formula for wildfires, and this season was no exception.  With over 1100 wildfires that have ravaged 550,000 acres of land, this season has been exceptionally damaging to both plants and animals alike.  

Fueled by drought, high temperatures, human carelessness, and lightning scorching the earth, an overabundance of fires have sprung up all across Arizona.  While the heavy rains have been beneficial to halting the spread, it is far too little too late. Over  30 wildfires are actively burning in Arizona from the time this was written.  “The 2021 fire season is already shaping up to be a big one, at more than 177,016 acres burned so far” said Garrett Archer of ABC-15 news as of June 10, 2021.  This figure is already greater than six of the last 20 years of wildfires, and with a top 10 fire having started this season as well.  The Telegraph fire, near Superior, claimed over 180,000 acres and required over one thousand firefighting personnel to combat the sixth most destructive wildfire in Arizona history.  Marvin Percha, an Arizona meteorologist, told AZCentral, “Fire danger levels are definitely above normal. Right now, most of the state of Arizona is in extreme to exceptional drought”.  Once this perfect storm of factors is set up, it does not take much of an instigation to cause all of the dry grasses and forests to catch alight.

  As of now, all major wildfires over 50,000 acreage have been 100% contained, but multiple small blazes pop up at a near constant rate around Arizona.  Throughout the 2021 wildfire season there have been two fatalities,  both caused by an aircraft accident while battling the Cedar Basin fire near Wikieup.  The plane crash left no survivors, having killed retired fire chief Jeff Piechura and  pilot Matt Miller.  

Year by year, Arizona reaches new highs in terms of temperature and these fires and the incidents correlated with them will only pick up in frequency.  The fires occurring over the last five years have been gaining in the level of destruction, with 2020 seeing 978,000 acres burned to the ground.  Although the land claimed was considerably less than last year, it has had a devastating impact on the wildlife in the area with reports saying that it could take close to 80 years for the forests to fully recover from the ordeal.  There is no way to remove wildfires from the equation, but all Arizonans should take increased precautions and remain alert in the case of this natural disaster striking near you.