The City of Prescott Fire Department demonstrated its efforts to create a "Fire Free Prescott, where everyone does their part" to Prescott City Council members, Yavapai County Commissioners and the media on December 30, 2014.
The event took place at Camp Yavapines, a 53 acre project at the youth camp and retreat center at 2999 Sierry Drive in Prescott. The work by the Fuels Mitigation Crew at this site is a small part of the much broader community-wide fuels mitigation efforts managed by the department. The objective is to remove enough fuel so that when a wildfire burns, it is less severe and can be more easily suppressed.
The fuels mitigation work benefits not only the camp, but also neighboring Kingswood, Forest Trails and Vista del Cerro subdivisions.
"Fuels mitigation is more involved than simply cutting a tree here or a bush there," said Prescott Fire Chief Dennis Light. "Detailed plans are developed based on the type of fuels on-site, the topography, and how those two factors relate to local weather conditions during the fire season. We also plan the location of our projects to complement mitigation work done by other agencies, making public grant dollars stretch even further."
For years, the three nearby subdivisions have participated in the National Fire Protection Association's Firewise Communities USA/Recognition Program, a means of empowering neighbors to work together in reducing their wildfire risk. Prescott has more than 20 Firewise residential communities that received recognition status by completing program requirements, including the formation of a board or committee, and conducting a "Firewise Day" event to remove brush, pine needles and leaves. City of Prescott Fire Department fuels mitigation personnel perform annual inspections and also train committee members on "Firewise techniques."
"When fire agencies are in response-mode to a wildfire event, they simply don't have the resources to defend every structure," said Prescott Fire Department Support Services Division Chief Darrell Willis. "This is where the relationship between the property owner and the agency is vital. The mitigation work the owner completes before fire season directly relates to successful outcomes during the fire season."
Each year, wildfires consume hundreds of homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI), areas where human development is close to, or within, natural terrain and flammable vegetation, and where high potential for wildland fire exists. Studies show that as many as 80 percent of the homes lost to wildfires could have been saved if their owners had followed a few simple fire-safe practices.
Mitigation of fuels in open space areas around Prescott, such as Camp Yavapines, reinforces the Wildland Urban Interface Code and provides education through outreach for risk assessment, treatment prescriptions, and the "Ready, Set, Go" program. These efforts provide a level of protection from the highest natural disaster threat to the City of Prescott and broader Prescott Basin area, which is wildfire.
"The only way we are going to be successful at mitigating the wildland fire risk is for each household to take responsibility for their property," added Chief Light.
Prescott residents are encouraged to contact the Prescott Fire Department to have a wildfire risk assessment of their property performed at no cost at 928-777-1700. The Department also offers chipping services for their residential brush. The Fire Department also assists with the submittal of Firewise applications and formulation of wildfire protection plans.