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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Firefighter groups are applauding steps taken by the Biden administration this week to temporarily raise wages for the men and women on the front lines of the nation's largest wildfires. But they say the temporary wage hikes won't be enough to combat staffing problems, as federal agencies compete with local fire departments and a tight labor market. The National Interagency Fire Center has grown less able to fill crew mobilization orders as climate change makes the U.S. West hotter, drier and more prone to wildfires. Labor experts, firefighter advocates and federal officials say the land management agencies that employ federal firefighters must do more to keep pace and compete with other fire departments and industries.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Forest Service employees made multiple miscalculations, used inaccurate models and underestimated how dry conditions were, causing a planned burn to reduce the threat of wildfires to turn into the largest blaze in New Mexico's recorded history. The agency on Tuesday released the findings of an investigation into a fire that ultimately displaced thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of homes. It also forced a pause on the agency's prescribed fire operations nationwide. Anger and frustration have been simmering among residents and elected officials. The blaze has charred more than 533 square miles, and forecasters are warning of post-fire flooding threats amid summer rains.
- BEARS EARS AGREEMENT
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Federal officials and tribal nations have formally reestablished a commission to jointly govern the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. The agreement signed Saturday was previously set forth by the Obama administration in 2016. It marks one of the first times a national monument will be jointly managed by federal agencies and Native American tribes. The agreement was altered to the chagrin of tribal officials when President Donald Trump downsized the monument in 2017. The five nations are the Hopi, Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Zuni, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.
- WESTERN WILDFIRES-ARCHAEOLOGY
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Wildfires in northern Arizona are crossing land rich with signs of human existence through centuries. The vast landscape marked by rugged mountains, high desert and towering ponderosa pines is dense with archaeological sites and artifacts. As efforts to fight wildfires advance, crews are doing more to avoid or minimize damage from bulldozers and other modern-day firefighting tools. Archaeologists say those efforts ensure ancient tools and dwellings unique to the arid U.S. Southwest are protected for future generations. Navajo archaeologist Jason Nez says the work also helps educate those on the fire line about the continued presence of Indigenous peoples.
- BC-NM-SCHOOL BUS CRASH-LAWSUIT
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The parents of three children injured in the crash involving an Albuquerque Public Schools bus four months ago have filed a lawsuit against the driver of the speeding car involved and his insurance company. The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that the 2nd Judicial District Court suit was filed on behalf of parents of two girls and a boy – identified only by their initials – who were passengers on the school bus. The Feb. 23 crash sent five people to the hospital. Two middle school students suffered serious injuries including a broken pelvis and a broken femur that required surgery. Police allege the 50-year-old driver of the car involved in the crash was racing at high speed with another vehicle at the time and collided with the bus.