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McCain says deadly Arizona wildfire highlights need

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Sen. Jeff Flake (left) and Sen. John McCain at a news conference Friday at Prescott High School (Source: CBS 5 News) Sen. Jeff Flake (left) and Sen. John McCain at a news conference Friday at Prescott High School (Source: CBS 5 News)
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PRESCOTT VALLEY, AZ (CBS5) -

Sen. John McCain says an Arizona wildfire that killed 19 firefighters shows how important it is to allow private companies to clear forests and devote more resources to firefighting efforts.

In a joint news conference with fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in Prescott, McCain criticized a decrease in the availability of large air tankers and federal automatic budget cuts.

McCain says the cuts will negatively affect the Department of Interior and its wildland firefighting budget.

"We are facing cuts that will reduce the capability of the forest service to fight these fires," McCain said.

The senators met with the families of the 19 firefighters killed Sunday, with McCain saying "it's hard to express the sorrow we feel and all Arizonans feel."

McCain just spent the Fourth of July with troops in Afghanistan and says the service members sent their thoughts and prayers to those affected by the fire.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved.  CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.