Fire officials are preparing for an active wildfire season as we enter the summer months. The Coronado National Forest says, in Arizona, that season is year round.
Steve Miranda, a fire staff officer with the Coronado National Forest, says state, local and federal agencies constantly monitor preparedness levels to ensure resources are available to meet objectives.
“We learn from all of our fires, not just in Arizona. We learn across the West and we try study them and learn where folks have been either injured or killed — learn what those decisions were and try to mitigate those in the future,” Miranda said.
This week, top wildfire managers visited Arizona Public Media, among them: Steve Miranda, a fire staff office for the Coronado National Forest; John Thornburg, a fire management officer for Saguaro National Park; and Steve Millert, the southeast district manager for Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
Thornburg said though resources can be a challenge, the various agencies are committed to providing the best service throughout the West.
“We bring in those resources that are available in other parts of the country that aren’t in fire season and help bolster our suppression resources so when we do have a fire that we have adequate resources. As the fire season progresses and our indices decrease our resources move to other parts of the country to help with their fire seasons.”
The trio discussed efforts to include collaboration amongst all partners, “no matter what shirt you’re wearing or what agency you represent, I think we’ve built enough of a relationship that it’s a very easy discussion.”
The Arizona Game and Fish Department says a dry winter has presented challenges for wildlife in our mountain ranges.
“All of our wildlife is looking for water. Normally, when we have our regular monsoon precipitation there’s area where water collects and wildlife can use that area throughout the drier months. And we didn’t have that this year and they’re working down to water catechumens,” said Karen Klima, a terrestrial wildlife manager for the agency.
Klima says catechumens catch rainfall and store water, then disseminate the water into a drinking vessel for wildlife.
Even without adequate rainfall, Klima says wildlife can manage.
“Our desert wildlife are amazing, they adapt very well and they’re used to this dry weather. Now, are they used to going an entire season without water? Probably not. But they are very adaptable. They know how to care of themselves. They know where to find water. They don’t even need to go to free water, they get water from the food that they eat.”
A national nonprofit that serves veterans recently opened in Southern Arizona. Boulder Crest Retreat is located in the Santa Rita mountains, near Sonoita.
The treatment center says it offers an intensive, seven-day treatment program to veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Josh “Oz” Oswald is a former patient who now serves as a counselor.
“When I left the military, I thought that was going to be the answer. The stress, the anxiety, the migraines would go away. But it didn’t help,” Oswald said.
Brian Bell, the executive director, says he and his staff are committed to treating veterans on a variety of levels to include meditation, journaling, cooking and one-on-one communication. Bell says the free treatment program is also extended to families.
“Post-traumatic stress is contagious. It’s like having the flu. It affects your family. We are not just here to heal the combat veterans. We’re here to heal the whole family.”
The Southern Arizona VA Health Care System is working to increase the service it provides veterans. There are approximately 60,000 veterans currently under care.
Dr. Anthony Stazzone, the chief of staff for the organization, says the “whole health” approach strives to treat veterans where they are, whether it be chronic disease or mental health services. Among the services offered are meditation and yoga.
“A disease state doesn’t just affect that one organ or that one aspect of the veteran. It affects the whole aspect of their life, their family, whether or not they’re going to be compliant, what they can do to manage their health more effectively. It empowers the veteran,” he said.
There are an estimated 500,000 veterans living in Arizona. Stazzone says the VA provides a number of resources to include a city-based service in urban communities, and outpatient clinics in rural Arizona. He said the goal is to minimize travel. Stazzone also said the VA is working to treat veterans more quickly while restoring trust. “it’s one veteran at a time. I don’t think you can do one thing or say one thing to earn trust. I think actions speak louder than words. Any complaint we take, we take seriously.”
“A disease state doesn’t just affect that one organ or that one aspect of the veteran. It affects the whole aspect of their life”
Maria Marin remembers the day seven years ago when soldiers from Fort Huachuca rang her doorbell early in the morning on Aug. 19, 2010. “We just instinctively knew that something was terribly wrong.” The Tucson native says the soldiers told her that her son Martin had been mortally wounded.
Martin Lugo enlisted in the Army while a student at Tucson High School. The Army ranger deployed six times during his six years of service, twice to Iraq and four times to Afghanistan. Lugo was 24 years old when he was killed.
This holiday, Marin asks families to reflect on the sacrifice of those in the military.
“The symbol of the flag that he loved so much is a constant reminder for me that you know what this is a great country” — Maria Marin
Marin says her family honors their fallen soldier every day of the year.
“In our country, I’m so thankful that we have a day that is exclusive for our fallen and our deceased veterans who have served. Men and women throughout the history of country have served so that we citizens who don’t serve can go out and make decisions for our lives to enhance the quality for our families for ourselves to do what we choose to do. That’s what freedom is about. They’re fighting for our freedom. They want the very best life for us. The way we can honor their service is by doing the best we can for ourselves, for each other and for our country.”