Two firefighters from the Superstition Fire and Medical District in Apache Junction just returned from fighting the Mad River Complex Fire in Northern California. It’s threatening two small communities with a combined population of roughly 7,000.
"They were in danger. The fire was backing down off of the mountains," said Capt. Ruben Briones, Superstition Fire and Medical District.
"While we were there, while the Arizona strike team was there, I'm proud to say no structures were lost," Mike Wolfe, an engineer with the Superstition Fire and Medical District, said.
The two men spent the past two weeks putting in 16-hour days on the fire lines, digging and back-burning to save homes. Seven of the 14 days, they slept away from the base camp under the stars to be closer for a quick response.
"It's very rewarding. We accomplish our mission and we protect somebody's home or property. That's why we're here," Wolfe said.
Several other Arizona crews have been at the Mad River Complex Fire. In all, there are 1,100 firefighters from western states on that particular blaze. And the Mad River scene is just one of 80 fires the U.S. Forest Service is fighting.
"They were always, constantly asking for more resources," Briones said. "It was still not enough."
Money is running short, as well. The U.S. Forest Service said it will easily burn right through the entire year's budget and borrow from the prevention fund.
"We're all very concerned about borrowing from firefighting for future years," Rep. Matt Salmon, R-AZ, said.
Many lawmakers have been upset about the budget woes and believe there are better ways to fund these fire fights and have money for prevention.
"The thinning efforts by the federal government are horrendous right now. They're not getting the job done," Salmon said, adding that allowing private loggers back into Arizona forests would help thinning efforts.
The U.S. Forest Service said, on average, the fire season is 78 days longer than it was 40 years ago. Some have suggested funding the worst wildfires out of federal emergency funds, similar to hurricanes and other natural disasters.
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