SPRINGERVILLE, Arizona – A raging wildfire that could become the largest in Arizona history is rekindling the blame game surrounding ponderosa pine forests that have become dangerously overgrown after a century of fire suppression.
Some critics put the responsibility on environmentalists for lawsuits that have cut back on logging.
Others blame overzealous firefighters for altering the natural cycle of lightning-sparked fires that once cleared the forest floor.
Either way, forests across the West that once had 50 trees per acre (half-hectare) now have hundreds, sometimes thousands, and much of the landscape is choked with tinder-dry brush.
The density of the growth has fueled immense conflagrations in recent years like the 525-square-mile blaze now burning in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest northeast of Phoenix.