Fire season is upon us. Since we have had an exceptionally dry period dating back to last fall, we may have an early start to the wildland fire season in Prescott. The purpose of my column this month is to review the resources available to us to prevent and fight wildland fires, and what you can do to protect your property.
Pete Gordon is the Fuels, Fire and Aviation Staff Officer for the Prescott National Forest. His team at the USFS Fire Center at the Ernest A. Love Airfield in Prescott is currently preparing for the upcoming fire season. This regional facility holds a large cache of supplies and an expert staff that is responsible for all of Arizona, New Mexico and part of west Texas. At peak season, the Fire Center has about 160 professionals specializing as pilots, communications specialists, supply management teams, logistics experts, firefighters, incident commanders and forestry managers.
The Fire Center hosts a number of aircraft of various sizes, from helicopters to the large slurry bombers. The Fire Center can fill these aircraft with “slurry,” which is mostly water mixed with fire retardant materials, to help quell active fires throughout the multi-state region, or farther away if needed. This is an extremely well-equipped facility and the entire Quad Cities area and beyond benefits from this vast array of capabilities – which is literally in our own back yard.
The Fire Center does not work alone to prevent and fight wildland fires. They have a number of interagency agreements, working with Prescott Fire Department, which houses a Forest Service fire engine at Station 71 year round, Central Arizona Fire and Medical, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, and the Bureau of Land Management. When the need arises, they call upon these local agencies, and sometimes those from around the southwest, to provide for the suppression of fires in our wildland urban interface and other forested areas.
An important part of the Forest Service’s activities include prescribed fire burns, which replicate the natural fire process. These are low intensity, in controlled conditions managed by U.S. Forest Service experts. These prescribed burns actually create a healthier forest, clearing debris and materials that could otherwise be a source of fuel for an uncontrolled wildland fire. Prescott Fire Department assists in this activity, deploying fuels mitigation crews, firefighters who clear city lands, stack the debris, then burn it. As you can see, there is a great deal of effort involved in reducing the risk of wildland fire.
Citizens are important and vital partners in prevention. It is important to keep your property clear of debris, to maintain a defensible space around your home and to plant shrubs and trees away from your home. Prescott Area Wildland Interface Commission (PAWUIC) is a great educational resource to help citizens manage the risk of fire damage to their property. To learn more, go to yavapaifirewise.org.
In closing, I want readers to feel as confident as I do in Prescott’s capacity to reduce risk and fight wildland fires. The facilities, the agencies and particularly the people involved in keeping our city safe are simply the best. QCBN
By Greg Mengarelli
Greg Mengarelli is the mayor of the City of Prescott.