As investigators delve into why the Yarnell Hill Fire killed more firefighters than any U.S. wildfire in 80 years, fire experts are renewing calls to make prescribed burns easier to accomplish.
Days after the fire, President Barack Obama said the incident “will force government leaders to answer broader questions about how they handle increasingly destructive and deadly wildfires.”
Firefighters say they know the answers: Ease environmental restrictions and spend more to clear brush and conduct prescribed burns. They are calling for political courage.
“If I had a magic wand, I’d be burning 100,000 acres a year in Arizona. Until we do that, we will never get out of this problem,” said Dugger Hughes, an Arizona battalion commander who leads the fight at many of the largest wildfires in the West.
“You have to get someone at the political level to say: ‘We’re fixing the forests.’ That’s what it will take to stop towns burning and to stop killing people,” he added.