2011 becomes Arizona’s worst-ever wildfire year


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It was a record Arizona could have done without: On Wednesday, 2011 became the worst fire year in state history.

The record was set when a fire near the Grand Canyon increased the total number of acres charred to 981,748. More than half that amount was devoured in the Wallow fire, which ripped through the eastern part of the state and into New Mexico. That blaze -- the state’s largest-ever fire -- was sparked May 29 and forced almost 11,000 people to temporarily flee their homes in the scenic White Mountains.


This summer, Arizona also endured the fourth-largest and ninth-largest conflagrations in its history, the Horseshoe Two and Murphy Complex fires, which strained firefighting resources. That has renewed debate over how best to manage the state’s fire-prone forests, the Arizona Republic reported.

During the Wallow fire, more than 30 homes were destroyed. But many more were spared, U.S. Forest Service officials said, because of a tree-thinning project that created buffers as wide as half a mile near the mountain towns of Alpine and Nutrioso. When flames reached the thinned-out stretches, they dropped from the treetops to the ground, where they were easier to douse.


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-- Ashley Powers

Greg Bryan / Arizona Daily Star