Thinning forests for Flagstaff watershed protection reason to celebrate

As wildfires rage across California and the death toll mounts, it’s an appropriate time to assess the fire risks facing the Flagstaff region, too.

Two decades ago, the answer to the question, “What is the single biggest threat facing Flagstaff,” the answer would likely have been, “Catastrophic wildfire.” The Radio Fire of 1977 had already denuded much of Mount Elden, and by the late 1990s, the city was still ringed by massive swaths of overgrown ponderosa pine forest that during dry years threatened to go up like Roman torches. The Pumpkin, Hochderffer and Horseshoe fires northwest of the city showed off the power of crown fires, and smaller ones closer to town such as the Woody Fire revealed just how precarious the margin of safety was.

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