Heat response similar in Tucson and Phoenix

Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 6:21 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The City of Phoenix is the only city in the country to have a government office specifically dedicated to heat response. It’s called the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation.

“Heat has fallen into what some scholars have called a governance gap,” said David Hondula, Director of Heat Response and Mitigation. “So it’s getting worse and we’re concerned about it, but nobody is thinking about it all the time. Those three factors conspired together for our mayor and city council to say, maybe we should have some people here in the city to have it be their job to think about heat all the time.”

They coordinate with and advise other city departments when it comes to the heat.

“In reality, at least as we’re set up right now, we’re a very small team in a big organization,” said Hondula. “We have to be collaborating with those bigger departments that have staff, budgets, and authorities that we might not have, to realize success.”

Phoenix is hot, but Tucson isn’t far behind. In fact, the Old Pueblo has just had its hottest monsoon on record. So the question is: Would the city of Tucson benefit from having a similar department?

“Even though we don’t have an office specifically dedicated for heat here in Tucson, the City of Tucson is already doing a lot of heat mitigation and building heat resilience across the community,” said Fatima Luna, Chief Resilience Officer of the City of Tucson.

Luna is Tucson’s first Chief Resilience Officer and earned the position about a month ago.

“Right now, my responsibility is to grow this program, this office if you will, so that we can work on heat mitigation, but also in other actions that are really intertwined when it comes to addressing climate change.”

Luna shares many goals with the office of heat-up in Phoenix.

“There’s heat, but there’s also energy and transportation,” said Luna. “In fact, the transportation sector is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat. The idea is that having a chief resilience officer will look at all those intersections and address heat as well.”

A big goal both cities share is planting more trees. The two cities recently benefitted from a grant, including $5 million here in Tucson.

“The types of trees that we are putting in the ground can still provide habitat for wildlife, can still provide shade, and all these other socioecological benefits, said Luna. “But also, the water intake is so much less than other non-native trees.”

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