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Telegraph Fire area comes back, but invasive grasses lead the way

After the Telegraph Fire swept through Tonto National Forest and scorched the desert near Superior, Globe and Miami, a generous monsoon revived desert grasses. But that golden carpet is not necessarily a sign of a healthy landscape.

The fire took out saguaros, barrel cactus and other Sonoran Desert plants.

Summer rains have restored some plant life, but much of it has come in the form of invasives, which can burn hotter than native turf.

Patti Fenner specializes in noxious weeds and is the executive director of Friends of Tonto National Forest. She says buffelgrass has begun to inch into the area, which could make matters even worse.

“It burns and then it just sprouts right back. It loves fire," Fenner said. "I mean we had mesquite trees left that sprouted, this time. But if you have a lot of buffelgrass in there, that’s not going to happen. So, I see things getting more extreme as the years go by.”

The Telegraph Fire burned through about 180,000 acres and destroyed several homes in the Miami area.

News Wildfires
Ron Dungan was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.