In an effort to provide a small bit of relief to victims of one of Arizona’s most devastating wildfire seasons, employees of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau have raised more than $2,000 for their neighbors in the state’s eastern and southern mountains.
The Wallow Fire, the biggest wildfire in Arizona history, has ravaged more than 530,000 acres—an area nearly twice the size of the city of Phoenix. The blaze began on May 29 and has since consumed old-growth ponderosa forests and forced evacuations of residents in the towns of Alpine, Eagar, Greer, Nutrioso and Springerville. As of Wednesday, the fire was 60 percent contained, thanks to the efforts of nearly 3,500 fire-fighting personnel.
The Monument Fire, which began June 12 in the Coronado National Monument near the Mexican border, has burned more than 27,200 acres. At one point during the fire, more than 12,000 people were forced from their residences in and nearby Sierra Vista. Some 37 fire crews and nearly 1,200 personnel have battled the blaze, which was 59 percent contained as of Wednesday.
“These fires have consumed our thoughts,” said Steve Moore, president of the Greater Phoenix CVB. “So many of us here have ties to White Mountains and Sierra Vista, be it friends or family or favorite weekend retreats. These are beautiful areas, and they contribute so much to Arizona’s character. We wanted to do something to quickly help folks affected by the fires.”
To that end, the CVB conceived an intra-office auction of donated goods, used office furniture and tchotchkes with outdated logos. One of the auction items was a mandatory day off for Moore, which stipulated the organization’s chief executive not only had to stay home from work, but also had to refrain from contacting the office via home computer or BlackBerry. (That item raised $200.)
When the one-day action came to a close, the Greater Phoenix CVB’s 40-plus employees had raised $2,076, all of which was donated to two Arizona Districts of Lions Clubs International that are distributing assistance to victims of the Wallow and Monument fires.
“We don’t have a large staff, but we do have a caring one,” Moore said. “I’m proud of how everybody pitched in, from our management to our student interns, and I’m hopeful these beautiful corners of Arizona return to a state of normalcy as soon as possible.”