Tom: Hello Sandy, my zipping, zooming and zapping gal. It is a joy to be with you again this month and to share our column with the community. I am not sure what we will end up talking about, but hey, hasn’t this weather been wonderfully crazy?
Sandy: Hello! Back at ya, Tom, and yes the weather has been glorious. The rain was so wonderful, even though it did slow down some construction; however, on the positive side we sure did need the precipitation.
Tom: Agreed. I don’t recall this area being as flush with water since the mid-‘80s after monsoons. It sure is helping all of the plants grow.
Sandy: And don’t forget the weeds, they are making me crazy. The rain brings many wonderful things, but weeds are not my favorite and they are popping up overnight. Tom, speaking of weeds and grass growing like crazy, let’s talk about what happens when things dry out and now these weeds contribute to an increased wildfire danger.
Tom: Sandy, good call. It is important for our readers to know what they should be doing around their homes and businesses to help them be safe.
You are talking about what it is like to live in the Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface area. There is a lot of smart information out there for our readers. I know you have something up your sleeve on this subject, so who are you going to bring into the conversation?
Sandy: Why, our renowned and recognized Don Devendorf, division chief/fire marshal for the City of Prescott Fire Department. Hi, Don, and thanks for being our community partner this month.
Don: Hi, Sandy and Tom. Looks like you two are having a conversation that is right up my alley and I agree. It is so important to encourage everyone in Yavapai County to be prepared for this coming fire season by creating defensible space around their homes and having a plan for evacuation.
Sandy: Don, I know you can help our readers prepare their homes for the fire season. Where should we start?
Don: Would love to start the conversation right out of the gate that rains do more than just cause weeds to grow. Weeds can become a hazardous fuel when not managed.
Tom: So, Don, you are saying that no matter how hard we all work to contain the vegetation that surrounds us, we all know it will grow back.
Don: Yes, Tom; however, when hazardous fuels are managed, the possibility of a wildfire disaster is drastically reduced. Whether a wildfire starts with a lightning strike or is human caused, fuel management is the key to safety.
Sandy: I would say that every individual property owner has a stake in making sure that our area, all-encompassing Yavapai County, is safe, not to mention protecting their own home.
Sandy: Don, what exactly is hazard mitigation?
Don: Hazard mitigation is any action taken to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to human life and property from natural and man-made hazards.
Tom: Don, are there certain easy points that break down actions for homeowners to take to protect their property in order to create defensible space?
Don: First and foremost is to be ready. That begins with a house that firefighters can defend. That means to maintain an adequate defensible space by creating the buffer around your home, by removing dead plants, grass and weeds. This buffer helps to keep the fire away from your home.
Sandy: Defensible space is the required space between a structure and the wildland area that, under normal conditions, creates a sufficient buffer to slow or halt the spread of wildfire to a structure.
Don: Sandy, you are a great student and working with all of our builders and landscapers, I know you are a fan of defensible space.
Tom: Let’s share with our readers the different zones that a property owner should manage.
Don: Zone One extends 30 feet out from the buildings, structures, decks, etc. Zone Two extends 30 to 100 feet out from buildings, etc. In each of these zones, there is a requirement for removing dead materials, thinning vegetation, removing combustible material and removing “ladder fuels” (low-level vegetation that allows the fire to spread from the ground to the tree canopy) along with several defensible space actions.
Sandy: And then there are fire-resistant plants.
Don: Yes, indeed. All homeowners should look at planting high moisture content and low-growing plants in their yards.
Tom: This sure is not just a single column article. There are so many other components to protecting a home and a family.
Don: You are right, Tom. Every family should have an action plan. The fire season is now a year-round reality and our fire departments take every precaution to help protect homeowners and their property. However, successful preparation for a wildfire requires the homeowner to take personal responsibility for protecting themselves, their family and their property.
Sandy: As you say, Don, it’s not a question of IF but WHEN the next major fire will occur. And that’s why the most important person in protecting their life and property is not the firefighter, but the property owner. So, to all of our readers, please take advance planning and preparation.
Tom: You are so right, Sandy. We have many local landscapers that are educated in defensible space and will come out and survey your property as will the fire departments.
Sandy: So, together from Don, Tom and me, we say be aware and make a more fire-safe environment for you and your family.
Don: We hope the lesson learned from this column is that good preparedness efforts completed with neighbors working together with local agency partners can make a difference. For our readers, please check out yavapai.us/firesafety. This is a wonderful brochure that has more information about creating an evacuation plan and help for creating defensible space.
Sandy: In closing, for our readers, please reach out to PAWUIC, now known as Yavapai Fire Wise, they can help your community become firewise and learn what you can do within your neighborhood to take responsibility to protect your homes and your neighbors. yavapaifirewise.org
Tom: And one more important piece of information, everyone should sign up for
CODE RED at ycsoaz.gov/community/Emergency-Preparedness/Emergency-Notification-System, which will notify if there is a wildland fire in the area.
Thanks readers for stopping in and reading “At Home with Tom and Sandy.” You’re in good company and we love sharing educational, fun and important information with you. And a huge thank you to Don Devendorf, division chief/fire marshal with City of Prescott Fire. We truly appreciate you. QCBN
Tom Reilly, Architect, Contractor, Renovations 928-445-8506 renovationsaz.com
Sandy Griffis, Executive Director, Yavapai County Contractors Association. 928-778-0040.