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As wildfires become inevitable, a Flagstaff hotshot calls for more active management

Mark Adams is one of the hotshot firefighters who fought those catastrophic wildfires near Flagstaff this summer.

When he moved to Flagstaff from the Midwest nearly 30 years ago to go to college, he knew nothing about firefighting — or wildfires. But he needed a job, and he loved the outdoors.

He loves the challenge of it — the travel, seeing the landscapes of the West every summer.

But in recent years, he said the job has gotten harder and the seasons longer.

Adams is the superintendent of the Flagstaff Hotshot Crew, and he was on the scene of both the Tunnel Fire and the Pipeline Fire this summer.

Both were what he calls “career fires” — the kind you’re supposed to only see once in your career. And they both happened right in his backyard — in Flagstaff; one, on the city’s famed San Francisco Peaks.

These fires didn’t char the entirety of the landmark mountain this time, though they caused significant damage. But in a recent op-ed that ran on the front page of the Arizona Daily Sun, Adams argues it’s a matter of when — not if — they will.

The Show spoke with him more about his op-ed, which reflects his own opinions, not those of the Forest Service. The conversation began with the day he got the call about the start that would become the Pipeline Fire. Immediately, he knew it wasn’t going to be good.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.