Salt Cedar trees a cause for concern in the west Valley come wildfire season

Posted at 7:24 PM, Mar 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-26 22:24:44-04

This week marks Arizona's Wildfire Awareness week and the conditions are considered extremely dry. Buckeye is still trying to get a handle on one of the most dangerous fuels, salt cedar trees.

Salt cedar trees are packed in thick along a stretch of State Route 85 in Buckeye, the main road linking the Valley to San Diego. It's a problem the city brought up in 2015 and is still dealing with.

One concern is that if a fire breaks out near the Route 85 bridge, the flames could actually damage the bridge - cutting off the busy route to San Diego. Tommy Taylor is a captain with the Buckeye Fire Department. He knows how fast and how hot Salt Cedar fires burn.

"It's going to grow fast so getting the resources available to fight the fire or in all essence, you may have to let it burn out to certain areas," said Taylor.

Salt Cedars can suck-up 200 to 300 gallons of water a day and they are tough to get rid of. They are common in the Valley. This month the Western Governor's Association named salt cedars one of the top 50 invasive species in the West. Buckeye says that designation alone could help secure more funding to remove more salt cedars, something it's already done.

"We were able to clear 40 acres of land, kind of a test area, to see what the impact would be on the land once we cleared it - to see what the re-growth of the trees were," said Taylor.

Buckeye says Salt Cedars are still clogging up about 15,000-acres in and along the Gila River inside the city's planning area. They're not alone in the fight. Private land owners and the federal government are still trying to come up with a plan, and most importantly the money, to get the job done.