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Officials will treat 12,000 acres of forest near Flagstaff to reduce overgrowth

Officials in northern Arizona will treat more than 12,000 acres of forest on the San Francisco Peaks to try to stave off destructive fires near Flagstaff. 

Coconino County and Forest Service officials want to restore areas of that forest, known as the Upper Rio de Flag watershed, within the next three to five years. This year, the two agencies will spend $13 million on projects to prevent catastrophic wildfires. A study from NAU estimated fires on the south and west sides of the peaks could cause between $500 million and nearly $3 billion in damage.

Lucinda Andreani is the county’s flood control district director.

"Even with restoration, we get a fire up there, we will see an increase in flows. But it’s very unlikely if we get the treatment done that we will see severe and repetitive post-wildfire flooding," she said.

The Forest Service plans to start using helicopters to trim the overgrown forest on the Peaks next year. The two agencies will next take their plans to the county's board of supervisors Tuesday.

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Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.