by Greg Mengarelli, Mayor, City of Prescott
As temperatures warm up, it is important to remember that Prescott’s fire season is generally April through June. While we are always thinking ahead and working hard to be prepared, it in no way means we can let our guard down. Prescott Fire Chief Dennis Light points out that, historically, some of the biggest fires that have occurred in Arizona come immediately following a wet season.
We are fortunate to have a number of important resources available to us to prevent and fight wildland fires and to protect your property or business.
To mitigate, prevent and suppress wildfires, the City of Prescott and the Prescott Fire Department partner with Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, the Bureau of Land Management and Prescott National Forest. When the need arises, we call upon all our local partners and, when necessary, those from around the Southwest to provide suppression of fires in our wildland urban interface and other forested areas.
Regional partnerships and interagency cooperation are truly the key to maintaining positive stewardship of our wildland interface. We are fortunate to have so many valuable partners in the community. To keep communication open and these relationships working in the most productive way, stakeholders assemble twice annually to review the various area fuel reductions projects being pursued and coordinate each agency’s work to ensure value is added to our community through interagency cooperation.
Another key to managing wildfire suppression is the Prescott National Forest, which manages the public lands surrounding our city. In addition to the Bradshaw Ranger District fire personnel, the Prescott National Forest has the Henry H. Kim Fire Center at the Prescott Regional Airport. This facility holds a large cache of supplies and an expert staff primarily responsible for all of Arizona, New Mexico and parts of west Texas.
At peak season, the Fire Center can have as many as 60 to 70 professionals specializing as pilots, communications specialists, supply management teams, logistics experts and firefighters including the Prescott Interagency Hotshot Crew, established in 1973.
The Fire Center is capable of hosting a number of aircraft of various sizes from helicopters to the large air tankers. This is an extremely well-equipped facility that hosts local, regional and national suppression resources. The Fire Center and Prescott National Forest are part of a large network of fire suppression resources that can be mobilized over short and long distances to support communities and natural resources threatened by wildfire, and it is literally in our own backyard.
Beyond our interagency partnerships, our citizens are vital to the prevention and protection of our community. It is important to keep your property clear of debris, maintain a defensible space around your home, and to plant shrubs and trees away from your home. Help our firefighters do their jobs and help yourself by actively managing the defensible space around your property and homes.
Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC) is a great educational resource to help citizens manage the risk of fire damage to their property. To learn more, visit www.yavapaifirewise.org.
We should all be confident in our community’s capacity to reduce risk and keep each other safe. Every agency and individual involved in the protection of our community is simply the best.
Photo: From the Prescott National Forest Air Tanker Base at Prescott Regional Airport, taken during the Goodwin Fire in 2017.