State Forestry Trains Arizonans on How to Live Firewise

State Forestry Trains Arizonans on How to Live Firewise

The Wallow Fire burns a home in the wildland-urban interface. The fire burnt over 500,000 acres and damaged or destroyed over 70 homes and outbuildings in 2011.

Though it sometimes seems to have a mind of its own the way it will destroy a house but spare its neighbor, wildfire is not alive. Actually, wildfire follows a recipe and as every good baker knows, you can’t leave out ingredients and expect to pull a cake from the oven.

 

Will Brewer works for Arizona State Forestry. Brewer is the Firewise® Coordinator for the Phoenix District, and more than conversant in the science behind wildfire.

 

“Fire is really a scientific formula. It goes wherever there are the three elements it needs to exist—oxygen, heat and fuel,” said Brewer. “And there are things we can do to take almost complete control over the availability of fuels around a home or business.”

 

Brewer identifies those “things” as creating defensible space by thinning trees and brush, and landscaping with fire-resistant plants; building away from slopes and with fire-resistant materials; and writing an emergency plan.

 

Recently, the Arizona State Forestry led a Firewise® Assessor Training course at the Sedona Fire Department for a mixed crowd of firefighters, homeowner association representatives, and home and business owners.

 

Participants “graduate” a Firewise® Assessor Training as certified to evaluate properties according to Firewise principles. Accredited assessors work with home and business owners, homeowner associations (i.e., HOAs) and local fire departments to evaluate the wildfire threat in wildland-urban interface communities like Cottonwood, Prescott and Sedona. Property owners who want to have their home and/or business assessed should contact their local fire department.

 

Trainees spent most of the two-day course in the classroom, where they got a crash course in fire science, the principles of fire mitigation and tips on performing property assessments. On the second day, the class visited a fuel treatment project in Village of Oak Creek and two homes in the City of Sedona that are in the wildland-urban interface (WUI).

 

The Firewise® curriculum defines the WUI as “any location where a fire can spread from vegetation (wildland fuels) to buildings (urban fuels), resulting in multiple house fires that overwhelm fire protection efforts.”

 

There are never enough firefighters to protect every home, said Brewer, and no home is ever worth a firefighter’s life; so when wildfire threatens a home or business, firefighters must decide whether they can save the structure without endangering the lives of firefighters. They make a determination based on several factions, including whether the property owner has implemented any of the Firewise® principles.

 

The Firewise® Communities Program advocates a three-tiered approach to wildfire mitigation. It starts with thinning trees and bushes, and landscaping with fire-resistant plants to create defensible space around structures. Rest assured there are ways to break up fuel continuity without overdoing it. “You don’t need to clear cut your property to be part of a Firewise® community,” said Carrie Dennett, the State Fire Prevention and Information Officer.

 

At the same time, home and business owners are encouraged to use fire-resistant materials when and where they can, and build away from slopes—wildfires burn hotter and faster when they are moving uphill. You should also take time to familiarize yourself with local emergency, including public notification and evacuation, plans.

 

Being informed is one of the four tenets of all-hazard emergency preparedness. The other three, according to Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA), are Make a Plan, Prepare a Kit and Inspire Others.

 

The Firewise® program, www.firewise.org, is a national fire prevention and mitigation campaign, which “teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourage neighbors to work together and take action now to prevent losses.” It is managed by the National Fire Protection Association.

 

According to the Arizona State Forestry Division, which oversees the Firewise® program in Arizona, 45 communities have earned Firewise Community status. Firewise® defines “community” as any combination of home and/or business owners sharing common interests and concerns.

 

 

For more information on the Firewise® Assessor Training course, contact the Arizona State Forestry Division.