by Leigh Cosby and Dr. Michael Orr
In our community, wildfire is a real and ever-present danger. Escaping from a raging firestorm is not always possible. The recent tragedies in Napa Valley and Santa Rosa remind us that a blazing wildfire cannot be outrun, outdriven or outsmarted once it has been unleashed. Whatever was the controversial cause of the Napa fire, it soon became an inferno and an air and land tsunami of flames.
In the last 20 years, Yavapai County has experienced multiple major fires, including the Indian, Doce, Yarnell Hill and Goodwin fires.
An ember blizzard can ignite a neighborhood as far as 6 miles away from the main fire. And when your home is that far away, a fire typically won’t be seen or smelled. A rain of embers can mysteriously fall from the sky (from heights up to 10,000 feet) on your yard, roof or your porch furniture and start a brand new fire.
What can people and neighborhoods do to help protect themselves? We learn how to cut and manage the vegetation around our homes and in our common areas, so that a fire will be less likely to ignite our property and spread throughout the neighborhood.
In 1990, the only Firewise® Commission of its kind in the country was started in Prescott. A group of local and regional fire departments, multiple government agencies managing open land and individual communities realized that everyone’s land is connected. We all share responsibility in thinning vegetation on the ground to decrease the risk of a crown fire in the tops of trees, which can rarely be fought successfully.
The commission was named Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC), which quite frankly, is a brain-twisting mouthful. We have now made it easier to remember by rebranding our name to YavapaiFirewise.org. There are now 37 Firewise communities in Yavapai County – half of the total for Arizona. They encompass approximately 17,000 properties throughout Yavapai County.
If your neighborhood is not a Firewise community and you would like to know how to become one, please call 928-277-8032 so that we can help you get started. With the exception of January and July, we hold our monthly meetings on the first Thursday of every month at 8 a.m. in the Freeman Building at the rodeo fairgrounds in Prescott. The public is invited to attend and learn. Find out about grant money available to Firewise communities to help with the cost of vegetation reduction on individual lots and common areas.
On Saturday, April 21, the 2018 Wildfire Expo will be held in Prescott on Cortez Street next to the courthouse. New and antique fire trucks and rescue equipment will be on display between Union and Goodwin streets. Firefighters and other professionals will be available to answer your questions. Smokey Bear will be available for hugs and photos at the Courthouse Square on Cortez Street.
Yavapai Firewise will have a booth with free educational brochures covering a variety of fire-safety topics. Kids can enjoy the fire trucks, entertainment and have their pictures taken with Smokey Bear. Bring your friends and neighbors to enjoy the day and learn how to become Firewise.