Arizona fire damage brings forests closer to collapse

As the chopper flew over the White Mountains, along the Mogollon Rim and on toward Flagstaff, Covington plotted out, with the help of a map and the Blackhawk's window, five tracts of forest, each about 500,000 acres, mostly ponderosa pines in the higher elevations and piñon pines and juniper trees farther down the slopes.

The first tract was near Show Low and Heber, spreading out onto the nearby White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. Another was farther east toward Springerville, Greer and Alpine. A third stretched from Payson toward Winslow, a fourth surrounded Prescott, and one more climbed the Rim from Sedona to Flagstaff.
That's where fires will burn in the next 20 or 30 years, Covington told Hull — big fires like Arizona has never seen. The forests were overgrown, the trees so close together that flames would race up the slopes, over the Rim and into the mountains for thousands of acres until the fuel ran out. The forests needed thinning, Covington argued. Hull, who owned a second home in the White Mountains, agreed and pledged help.

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