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USDA allocates $12.8 million for Arizona wildfire recovery

The smoke plume from the Museum Fire shortly after it ignited on July 21, 2019. It would eventually burn nearly 2,000 acres in the Dry Lake Hills north of Flagstaff.

The Biden administration has allocated nearly $13 million in disaster funding for Arizona wildfire recovery. It comes as communities continue to grapple with flooding from recent severe fires in the state. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The $12.8 million will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Watershed Protection Project and go toward flood mitigation in the Museum Fire flood area as well as the Telegraph and Bush fires in central Arizona.

Post-fire flooding continues to threaten local communities throughout the state following some of the most destructive fire seasons in Arizona’s history. Monsoon floods below the Museum Fire burn area in Flagstaff damaged more than 50 homes last summer totaling more than a $1.5 million in private property damage.

“Years and months after these fires, communities near Globe, Miami, Flagstaff, and Saguaro Lake still face serious public safety risks from post-fire flooding that endangers ranchers, tribal communities, and others who utilize and care for our land," said Democratic Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly who advocated for the funding along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

Severe drought and scorching record temperatures have driven some of Arizona’s largest-ever fires in recent years. The Bush Fire burned more than 193,000 acres in 2020 and last year’s Telegraph Fire scorched more than 180,000 acres.

In January, the federal government announced a $3 billion effort over the next decade to mitigate wildfires in the West. Arizona’s Four Forest Restoration Initiative is among the projects prioritized for the funding.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.