Arizona Senator Jeff Flake takes wildfire tour

Stage one fire restrictions are in place in northern Arizona.

The US Forest Service is reminding people they can't start campfires or burn charcoal unless they are in developed campgrounds. Smoking outside is also prohibited.

The restrictions come on the same day Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich toured areas burned by the Wallow Fire.

The tour is to learn why spending money on prevention would help save money in the long run.

The first stop of the tour, a lumber mill in Eager, Arizona.

“We do utility poles and fencing,” said Randy Nicoll with Arizona Log and Timberworks.

Nicoll says he doesn't have any problems getting lumber orders.

The issue? “I've been struggling for a year and half to get a steady supply of lumber into our yard to fill the orders,” said Nicoll.

He, along with four other lumber companies, have been struggling ever since the Wallow Fire scorched more than 800 square miles, which included at least 60 acres of land ready to be harvested. Nicoll says the lack of supply has caused one of those companies to close its doors.

Lumber mills rely on the US Forest Service to mark the trees ready to be harvested, which provides their supply. The harvested trees would also help thin out the forest, reducing the amount of fuel there is for a fire.

But since funding has been cut, the forest service doesn't have the resources. This has caused uncertainty for businesses like Nicoll's.

“A month ago I didn't have one log in my yard,” said Nicoll.

Nicoll has 15 employees, many will get laid off if there is no lumber.

So Nicoll is hoping Senator Jeff Flake and Senator Heinrich understand the struggles since the Wallow fire.

“I have enough product in my yard to last a little over a week,” said Nicoll. And only half of what he needs to fill orders.

And time is not on his side. "If I don't get anything in for a couple weeks, I'll have to shut our doors," said Nicoll.

The US Forest Service in northern Arizona currently has $3 million dedicated to fire prevention and thinning out the forest.

They really need $6 million to get ahead.

Senator Flake and Senator Heinrich are working on getting the US Forest Service the funding and resources they need to weaken wildfires.

Flake and Heinrich are also currently pushing a bill which would allow the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to enter into private contracts to help meet land management and fire prevention goals.

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