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May 14, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Wildfire Update

  |   Video
  • Helen Graham, Deputy Fire Staff Officer for the Tonto National Forest, provides an update on Arizona’s current wildfires and a forecast for the summer fire season.
  • Helen Graham - Deputy Fire Staff Officer, Tonto National Forest
Category: Environment   |   Keywords: arizona, wildfire, update, national, forest, forecast, fire, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons: Temperatures are up, and the heat is on as wildfires are burning thousands of acres in Arizona. The Gladiator Fire on the Prescott National Forrest has raced through about 3,000 acres near crown king. This as three wildfires are burning on the Tonto national forest. The largest is the Sunflower Fire, 20 miles south of payson. It was reported yesterday morning, it's already consumed more than 3,000 acres. Here with an update and a forecast for the summer wildfire season is Helen Graham, Deputy Fire Staff Officer from Tonto National Forest. Thank you for joining us on "Arizona Horizon." Is that pretty much where we stand right now, have you got new numbers?

Helen Graham: I don't have any new numbers from this morning. The Sunflower Fire was a little over 3,000 acres this morning, and with the Northwest winds we did get acetaminophen crease in acreage. It did take some today.

Ted Simons: From what you're aware of, how much contained so far?

Helen Graham: I don't have any estimate of containment for either fire.

Ted Simons: That's not good.

Helen Graham: Well, you have to start somewhere. We have developed a good anchor point on the sunflower, but we're moving forward from there.

Ted Simons: Where exactly are these fires?

Helen Graham: The Sunflower Fire is 20 miles south of payson. As you head up highway 87 out of Mesa, you're coming down into kitty joe creek area, and there's the sunflower admin site, it's about 15 miles south of the turnoff to the lake Roosevelt.

Ted Simons: 50 miles south. All right.

Helen Graham: So it's off to the west just east and south of the wilderness.

Ted Simons: And as you're traveling up there, you can see that fire.

Helen Graham: You'll see the smoke from the fire, yes.

Ted Simons: You've mentioned the MATAZELS hit not too long ago?

Helen Graham: They were hit in the '90s and early 2000s.

Ted Simons: When an area is hit like that, how -- isn't there a down period as far as fires are concerned?

Helen Graham: Yeah. The winter period, the fall and the winter and early spring is actually the period when we try to do our prescribed burning to reduce the fuel loading on the forest. It's a low period of occurrence for fires for us.

Ted Simons: If an area has been hit hard, that should be immune for a while.

Helen Graham: You're talking about over periods of time. You know, the fire is a natural process. When a fire goes through we have the fine field growth that comes back, we get the brush that comes in, and once have you that field growth, you're ripe for another fire. The intensity will be lower, but you're still ripe for another fire.

Ted Simons: Weather conditions over the winter, how does that play into what's happening right now?

Helen Graham: Very much into what's happening now. We're in a long-term drought. We had below-normal precipitation through the winter and we had higher than normal temperatures. So soil moistures are lower, we did get early winter rains that brought some grass growth, and we had good grass crap last year, so good seed craps. We have plentiful grasses, especially in the uplands outside of the deserts. So grass is a good contributor to the spread of fire. So it leads to fires that spread quickly, quickly can get out of control and are hard to catch.

Ted Simons: What about current weather conditions? Where are these fires headed?

Helen Graham: Well, today we're experiencing weather system that pushed the fire to the southwest. Tomorrow we're getting southeast winds and that will push the fire to the Northwest. So -- and then our typical pattern is out of the southwest. So the fire is getting moved around quite a bit today, yes turn back to our typical pattern, we'll have a larger flaming front to dole with.

Ted Simons: Any power lines threatened?

Helen Graham: The large K.V. line down the 87, it's been tripped once because of the smoke from the fire. So we're monitoring that with APS actively, and they're a partner of ours in managing wildfires, and they're actually on the team. So we'll keep them monitoring that, keep working with them to divert power and keep Phoenix powered up, because of the heat of the summer. But it is threatened. It will be threatened, and we're working to protect it.

Ted Simons: Homes and structures, Gladiator Fire has got folks in crown king worried. What about the ones in Tonto?

Helen Graham: Nearby ranch to the south and west, and there are some forest service structures to the south. But moving into the wilderness there really aren't any structures or developments that are threatened other than trails and trailheads.

Ted Simons: The idea, campground, historic sites as well? Are they pretty much out of the line?

Helen Graham: At this time they are. Mormon flat trailhead is right at the edge of the fire.

Ted Simons: What can be done as far as mitigating wildfires in Arizona? Obviously if you're camping, you've got to watch yourself and understand the ramifications of what you're doing. But what can you done to mitigate and what should be done? As you mentioned, this is nature.

Helen Graham: Right. Folks that are enjoying the national forest need to be careful with any kind of fire. We're preparing to go into fire restrictions, which will limit people's ability to use fire in the forest. We'll be restricting fires to developed campgrounds and the types of campfire rings we provide. Smoking will be prohibited except in developed areas, buildings or cars. And then all the other extreme uses, welding, a lot of our fires -- A lot of our fires year in and year out are caused by vehicle problems. Overheating vehicles, vehicles that are poorly maintained, vehicles that break down and pull to the side of the road and a catalytic converter starts the grass on fire. So we can acrib out a lot of our fires to the traveling public.

Ted Simons: Last question. You look outside right now, we looked outside yesterday and saw a lot of muck in the sky. A lot of smoke. Which -- are we looking at wildfires? If so, which ones.

Helen Graham: You're looking at both of them. As a matter of fact, the first day of the Sunflower Fire bite end of the day I was talking with ADEQ about the impacts of smoke to Phoenix. With the weather patterns, the nighttime winds, even if the Snoqualmie blows out, the weather patterns, the downslope winds will bring it back to Phoenix. That's why we're working with ADEQ to monitor the situation.

Ted Simons: So we're looking at gladiator and sunflower, both those fires.

Helen Graham: Both those fires are impacting the Phoenix basin.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Helen Graham: Thank you.


  |   Video
  • David Saar, the Artistic Director and Founder of Tempe-based “Childsplay”, talks about the work of his professional theatre company that’s now concluding its 35th season with the original production “The Color of Stars”.
  • David Saar - Artistic Director and Founder, Childsplay
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: artbeat, art, childsplay, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's "Arizona Artbeat" segment looks at Childsplay, a Tempe-based professional theater company that's been performing for kids and families for 35 years. I recently spoke with David Saar, the founder and artistic director of Childsplay. Thank you for joining us on "Arizona Horizon."

David Saar: Thank you.

Ted Simons: What is Childsplay?

David Saar: Childsplay is a professional theater company for young audiences. We're based in Tempe. We do a season at the Tempe center for the arts, we do touring shows to Arizona schools throughout the state, we have class -- programs in classrooms, and starting four years ago now, next year, we are touring nationally.

Ted Simons: Wow.

David Saar: Coast-to-coast.

Ted Simons: When people hear Childsplay, they think child actors, child audiences.

David Saar: they think child actors and they're wrong.

Ted Simons: OK.

David Saar: It's an adult professional company. We spend a long time trying to rectify that. But -- so it's a group -- Childsplay is unusual in that we have a resident ensemble of artists. Some who have been with the company for 25 years. And so they have worked together, taught together, and they -- that shows up on stage. And kids feel that excellence.

Ted Simons: Indeed. But the audience now, these plays are designed, these productions are designed for a younger audience. What age range?

David Saar: Really K -- sometimes younger, we do preschool work now, through mid high school, maybe. But actually some shows, like "color of stars" that we're doing right now is for everybody. I had -- whey this morning, a kid audience, we had this afternoon an audience of seniors. Both of them saw the identical show, but got much different things out of it and had much different responses for the actors.

Ted Simons: That brings up a question about how much you can do for kids and how that make -- 35 years you've been doing this. I want to get back to that too. But in 35 -- kids changed over the last 35 years. How do you keep it relevant, how do you make sure it's not too much?

David Saar: I don't think it can ever be too much. I don't -- that's a fundamental principle. I don't underestimate kids at all. I think they're capable of far deeper understanding, and I've this that proved out over the years. The audiences have changed. 10-year-old kid now has never lived in America that was not at war. That's changed our perception. At the same time, what being at war means is different from an earlier generation. And so this play we're doing now "color of stars," is about World War II, in rural Maine, that's way far away from the Tempe, Arizona, area, or wherever we're performing, but the kids are taken into that environment and see what another war was like for characters and a kid that they come to identify with.

Ted Simons: When you're performing and you've got this young audience out there, how do you know you have them? Do they get quiet? Go they do this?

David Saar: They get quiet, they lean forward, they laugh when it's funny.

Ted Simons: They're paying attention.

David Saar: Yes.

Ted Simons:: And when you don't have them, they start fiddling.

David Saar: wiggle.

Ted Simons: You get to choose to play, sometimes you direct, the whole nine yards.

David Saar: Yes.

Ted Simons: When you read a play that's designed for a younger audience, do you see a wiggle spot right there on the page?

David Saar: Yes. Yeah, you can, but there's -- you have to direct almost to an automatic -- there's going to be a wiggle spot at 13 minutes. Because that's when the commercial comes.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

David Saar: And so that's a part of it. But it's also the actors. The actors, when they're working they're connected to that audience. And the audience feels that connection, it feels they are feeding the actors. They are giving energy back to the performers. And it's magic. It's the magic of live theater.

Ted Simons: You mentioned a commercial of 13. Highway else do you have to deal with television, with iPads and ipods, and all sorts of gaming equipment? The whole -- you've got a lot of -- when you started 35 years ago, none of that stuff except for TV was around.

David Saar: Exactly. But it's all a challenge. The thing is, the meaning of live theater is so different than staring at an iPad, or television, or a movie screen or game. It's immediate connection, person-to-person. And kids respond to that. They are in some ways the easiest and the hardest audiences. Because they will let you know if they're not entertained or if they're not following you. But at the same time, they're willing to go anywhere. You want them to go to Mars, they'll go to Mars with you. They’ll go to the depths of the ocean. They'll go anywhere. In pursuit of a good story.

Ted Simons: Yeah. And you in pursuit of a home have been around Tempe. You've got a few spots now, but now you're at the beautiful center for the performing arts.

David Saar: The city has been an incredible sponsor for Childsplay, in 35 years. Back when it made no sense to support us. But, yes, we've had a number of homes in Tempe. Now we're permanently at the Tempe center for the arts.

Ted Simons: And I understand that they will come out to see you, but you're kind of working in concert with a group from Indiana on some sort of cooperation?

David Saar: Yeah. We have a lot of national partners. I'm going to a new place, workshop this week in St. Louis with another company. But we have taken over a new place, a festival that has been at Indiana repertory theater for 25 years. The founder was ready to move on, and so the Indiana repertory theater and Childsplay are cosponsoring that, giving it a new name, and it will be a launch of four to six new plays every two years, two years -- first year in Tempe in 2013, Indianapolis in 2015. And it is an opportunity for young playwrights who might not necessarily have connection with the theater, with the producing theater, to get their work shared. We'll bring artists here and we'll work for a week, and then share that 10 shows over the course of a weekend.

Ted Simons: My goodness.

David Saar: All new work, all hopefully going to do just exactly what you asked about, speak to today's kids.

Ted Simons: Yes.

David Saar: Speak to what they're interested in now.

Ted Simons: 35 years. I gotta ask, what got you started in this, and were your initial goals, A, after all these yours they've gone down to furthering the alphabet.

David Saar: I'm afraid they -- it began a little selfishly. My need -- I just needed to get out of ASU. I had to prove to them I could direct. So I directed this show, first show was a group I pulled together a group, and it was a reviewed by time call will today be yesterday tomorrow? Think about it.

Ted Simons: That's a great title.

David Saar: But the whole process of creation was so pleasant, and then people just started asking us to come out and perform. We didn't start out to make an organization. We started out to make a play. And that's continued. The kind of plays we create has changed vastly over the years. And continues to.

Ted Simons: And last question, last pointer. 35 years. When you look back, you feel like you made a difference?

David Saar: Yes.

Ted Simons: Good for you. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

David Saar: Thank you.

States’ Rights Legislation

  |   Video
  • State Senator Al Melvin of Tucson talks about states’ rights legislation introduced during the recent legislative session, including his own bill that’s awaiting the Governor’s signature.
  • Al Melvin - Senator, Tucson
Category: Government   |   Keywords: states, rights, legislation, government, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Frustrated with the federal government, some state lawmakers set out this past session to push a state's rights agenda. Their success was limited, but one bill sponsored by Al Melvin, saw waiting the governor's signature. Here to talk about that bill and efforts to pass other states' rights legislation is senator Al Melvin, a Tucson Republican. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. The idea of the feds handing over title to public lands. Why?

Al Melvin: Well, there are many reasons. One of which is all of the eastern states and the midwestern states are about 98% private property. Compared to the western states, we here in Arizona at the most, we're only 18% with the federal government almost 50%. Not including Indian land and military reservations. So this is true of all the western states. So when you have public education funded by private property taxes, and we're at 18% private and all of the Midwest and eastern states at 98%, it puts us at a distinct disadvantage. But it was really appropriate that this lady would precede me this evening. From the forest service. Because not only are we concerned about having that federal land be turned into private land, but also we're concerned about the mismanagement of it, Frankly.

Ted Simons: Talk more about the mismanagement of public lands as you see it, and what exactly you're talking about. Some see mismanagement as saying you can't mine for ore near the Grand Canyon.

Al Melvin: Well, we're at our hundredth birthday as a state. And one would ask, why is this an issue now at 100 years as compared to before? Well, the first 70 years things went pretty good. Mining, cattle grazing, the lumber companies. But it's been in the last 30 years where the extreme environmental policies of the forest service, BLM, and others, have literally brought those three key Arizona industries to a halt. And what she was saying, I was talking to her before the show and I said, what are you going to do to fight these fires? We had the most horrendous fires in the history of our state last year. And basically it's burn, baby, burn. As opposed to having a lumber industry that goes in and clears the underbrush, and harvests the forest properly.

Ted Simons: Does a lumber industry add to the quality of life for those looking for nature in our forests and in our wild places?

Al Melvin: I believe that proper forest management does. It's ironic that the federal government, through these extreme environmental policies, to save the spotted owl, and other so-called endangered fauna and Flora, when you have a devastating fire like we had last year, far more of these endangered species are destroyed by these out-of-control fires than any lumber or mining industry could ever cause problems.

Ted Simons: Do you see mining for ore near the Grand Canyon providing habitat for wildlife? Keeping nature as free from human contact as possible, do you see that as radical environmental policy?

Al Melvin: Well, it's interesting. We have the Arizona geological survey, and they have done a study that the natural flow of water by rain down the Grand Canyon into the river, the equivalent of 60 tons of uranium flows into the river year after year. Compared to this isolated uranium mining, which would be done in a very proper and environmentally correct way. So if you would -- if people would only tell the truth --

Ted Simons: but I guess my question stands -- are those radical environmental policies?

Al Melvin: I believe so. If we -- this is now becoming a national security issue in my view. If the United States has not allowed to use its natural resources, whether it be oil, or gas, or copper, or uranium, or timber, then we -- I believe the end result in the final analysis will be a third world country. So we need to look at this in a rational way to employ our people. For instance, the Rosemont mine down south of Tucson that is much debated now. 2200 jobs. We need to put our people back to work and we can do it, in an environmentally sound way.

Ted Simons: Is Arizona prepared to oversee all of this land?

Al Melvin: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Maintaining roads, maintaining --

Al Melvin: you bet.

Ted Simons: -- government infrastructure, fighting forest fires.

Al Melvin: Yes.

Ted Simons: How -- who is going to pay for it?

Al Melvin: I'll tell you. One, first, we want to convert this land to private land as fast as we can. But I had an opportunity to visit Canada about a year ago. I visited Alberta, the oil sands, and the northern part of that province, and British Columbia. And one very interesting thing about Canada, they have more federal land than we do. But the critical difference is, each province manages the federal land in the province. The lumber, the natural resources, the grazing, the water, and they do it in an environmentally correct way.

Ted Simons: Can Arizona do it? Because we can't say -- there are those who say we can't seem to handle where we've got right now. Where is that money coming from?

Al Melvin: I know we can do it. We have a state forester, maybe people don't know that. We have 15 counties with their own forest equivalent. We have our own firefighting teams, we have 10 major prison complexes in Arizona, each one of them has a wildfire team that's train and ready to go. Surely we can do a better job than this most horrendous fire that we had last year, and now the lady before me, when I asked her what are you going to do to fight this fire? She said, well, if it gets into a monument area, there's nothing we can do. The only thing we can hope for is a hiking trail might -- I'm starting to laugh -- might impede it in some way. It's basically just to let it burn.

Ted Simons: So you think it's a better idea to have roads crisscrossing all of our forestlands?

Al Melvin: No. I believe that we have schools of forestry management in the west, in all the western states, and we can do this in a correct and logical way. But the main thing is that the 50 states should be treated in an equal manner, all 50 of us, and therefore we need to increase the percentage of private land.

Ted Simons: Last question, for those who say people come to Arizona because of the beauty, because of the nature, because there are places you can go where there's not a lot of human contact and the wildlife, the Flora, the fauna, is still there and hasn't been messed with. How do you respond to those folks?

Al Melvin: My response to them is that we can manage these forests, these federal lands in a much more responsible way than the federal government is. If you go to Yellowstone national park, it is in three stages. One-third burned about 20 years ago and was never cleared or responded to. One-third, the beetles got it, and the final third is waiting for the next fighter -- fire or beetle attack. I know we can do a better job.

Ted Simons: We've got to stop you right there. It's good to have you here. Good to get your viewpoints out there. Thank you.

Al Melvin: Good to be here.