Two years ago last June, the Shultz Fire filled the skies north of Flagstaff with smoke. By the time it was controlled, 15,000 acres of Coconino National Forest land had burned including the ponderosa pines that would have absorbed much of the subsequent rainfall. A month later monsoon rains drenched the area
New Mexico’s largest ever wildfire is still growing. Last year the Forest Service spent one point four billion dollars fighting fires. They expect to spend that much or more this year containing these so-called “mega fires.”
Forest Ecologist Wally Covington says several factors have led up to what he calls a crisis. In the late 1800s cattle overgrazed and left the landscape bare -- so no small plants to keep fires on the ground. Also, for a long time fire was seen as the enemy so forests grew thick.