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National Public Radio Interview

Location: Tucson, AZ

National Public Radio (NPR)

SHOW: Weekend Edition Sunday (1:00 PM ET) - NPR

June 22, 2003 Sunday

HEADLINE: Fighting a major wildfire just outside Tucson, Arizona




A major wildfire burning in southern Arizona continues to rage this morning through rugged, steep terrain outside Tucson. The Aspen fire has burned more than 7,500 acres and destroyed at least 250 homes and businesses in the mountaintop community of Summerhaven. The blaze threatens to burn more than 50 additional homes in nearby Soldier's Camp. Arizona Public Radio's Sadie Babits reports.

BABITS: Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano flew over the blaze Saturday and met with evacuees. She says this blaze is tough to fight because it's hot and windy.

Governor JANET NAPOLITANO (Arizona): It's difficult because it's dry, because we are in a drought in Arizona. It's difficult because some of the area within the fire perimeter has been devastated by the bark beetles. So you have stands, literally, of dead trees that can go up at a moment's notice. And it's difficult because of the high winds we've been experiencing.

BABITS: The governor says federal legislation to make it easier to get work done in the forest is taking too long. She says federal land agencies need to be able to do the thinning and prescribed burns in the areas where communities meet the forest.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: And I'm actively advocating that we get resources on the ground now in Arizona on federal lands to begin those thinning projects. There are some going on, and I've seen them and I appreciate them. But given the large amount of acreage that we have in Arizona that is federally controlled, and a large percentage of that which is on the urban-wildland interface, we need them to put their resources down on the ground now.

BABITS: The governor is working to have Summerhaven declared a disaster area. Meanwhile, fire crews are actively battling the Aspen fire, building fire lines and trying to protect as many homes as they can. They are also starting to clean up areas in Summerhaven so they can begin to fully determine the damage. For NPR News, I'm Sadie Babits in Tucson.

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