Could Arizona run out of firefighters?

With dozens wildfires burning in Arizona, 12 News’ William Pitts looks at whether fire resources are spread thin.

PHOENIX - State officials say there are more than 60 fires burning across the state of Arizona, stretching resources thin.

Twice over the weekend, the Arizona Department of Forestry tweeted that resources were scarce and that fire managers were struggling to get the resources that were left.

But Jeff Whitney, the Arizona State Forester, said Monday that while resources might be scarce, they'll probably never be gone. 

Whitney said since fire season hits at different times in different parts of the country, there are usually crews available to come to Arizona and fight fires.

"When everybody gets to kind of a high tempo," Whitney said, "then we get into a prioritization nationally and we share resources."

That means prioritizing how many fire crews and air resources a fire gets based on the danger it poses. 

The Southwest Coordination Center in New Mexico assigns those resources out. And if US-based crews are struggling, they can look internationally.

"We have international agreements with the crown colonies," SWCC's Mary Zabinski said. "Canada, Australia, New Zealand ... they've all supported us throughout the years."

That's at least four countries' worth of firefighters available to call on.

So, we can verify that although it's theoretically possible, realistically we'll never run out of fire crews to fight wildfires.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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