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Billions of dollars headed towards halting wildfires across the U.S.

Wildfire mitigation
Posted at 5:02 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 19:18:48-05

GLOBE, AZ — “It was devastating, it was pretty heartbreaking for us because we had fallen in love with this area,” said Tari Infante during an interview in November with ABC15.

At the time, she was looking over the burned rubble that was her home just outside of Globe.

“It’s hard to take it all in, that first drive-in, driving through miles and miles of grey and black soot, where there were tall trees, there’s just those black sticks standing there like grave markers,” said Tari.

Last summer, her home, and more than a dozen others perished in the Telegraph Wildfire.

She says the financial burden to pick up the pieces has been overwhelming.

“We had insurance of course, but insurance, you now, they depreciate the value of your belongings and the value of your home, said Tari. “The costs to replace what you lost are incredibly difficult.”

It was an event that left many wondering what the future could look like and if they would ever fully recover.

But most of all, Tari wondered what was being done to prevent it from happening again in the future.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Senator Mark Kelly, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced a renewed commitment to preventing these massive fires from happening in the first place.

“The time to act for significant improvement, to change the trajectory of our wildfires, and its impact on people, communities, forests, and our firefighters is actually long overdue,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Agriculture Secretary.

The recently passed infrastructure bill provides billions of dollars to the forest service and other federal agencies, who will use it to drastically reduce dried fuels in many wildland areas across the U.S.

They'll target what they call “fire sheds” or areas they say data suggests are likely to ignite dangerous fires near homes, infrastructure, and natural resources.

“Then you look at those who are those priority fire sheds that if a fire takes place in there, what’s a risk, and so those highest fire sheds are gonna be the first places we start,” said Chief of Forest Service Randy Moore.

The groundwork in this new strategy will begin in areas identified as being at the highest risk, based on community exposure. Additional high-risk areas for water and other values are being identified.

Some of the highest risk areas based on community exposure include the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevada Range in California, the front range in Colorado, and the Southwest.

Over the next then years, they hope to treat 20 million acres of national forests and grasslands, as well as an additional 30 million acres of other federal, state, tribal, private, and family lands.

Fuels and forest health treatments, including the use of prescribed fire and thinning to reduce hazardous fuels, will be complemented by investments in fire-adapted communities and work to address post-fire risks, recovery, and reforestation.

While it may still be too late to save Tari’s home, she hopes it prevents others from facing the same result.

“It is past due time for that kind of mitigation,” said Tari.