Efforts to better safeguard homes from the threat of wildfire have taken off in mountain communities throughout Arizona, with homeowners cutting down trees, removing wood piles, raking leaves and caulking around windows to keep embers out.
Last year, 17 communities participated in the state’s Firewise program. That’s more than double the seven communities that participated the previous year.
And since July 2004, 14 communities have completed larger-scale, collaborative wildfire protection plans with local governments, fire departments and state officials. Ten more are in the works.
So far, officials estimate the Firewise program has helped protect at least 25,000 acres and 7,000 homes. They say a spate of major wildfires is what turned the course, replacing the old days of packing up belongings and hoping for the best with a new attitude and determination.
“We try to use those fires as a learning experience both for ourselves and for the public,” said Cliff Pearlberg, the state’s Firewise liaison. “Anything we can use to give us an edge, we’ll take it.”
For residents of the Timber Ridge community in Prescott, it was the 2002 Indian fire, which destroyed five homes and burned 1,300 acres within three miles of downtown Prescott.
“You could see the flames on top of the hills,” said Darrell Anderson, who started the community’s Firewise program.
Anderson said before the fire, only about 50 of the community’s 300 homes had signed up for the program. After, about 200 homes were on board, and the community was the first in the nation to attain a Firewise designation.
Last year, a community known as Kohl’s Ranch, east of Payson, earned the designation with 75 percent of homeowners participating.
“We love the community,” Kohl’s Ranch resident Margaret Midlick said. “We want to do everything we can to preserve it.”
Midlick and her husband have added rock and netting around their home to keep embers out. They also cleared brush around their propane tanks and installed a fire-rated metal roof.
The idea is to maintain the character of picturesque mountain hamlets while cleaning up fire-prone areas and creating 30 feet of space around homes. Some residents say the views are actually better with fewer trees, and they now can see more wildlife.
“We’re not asking you to moonscape your home and your property,” Pearlberg said. “We’re asking you to remove some things strategically so fire doesn’t have a chance to roll over your home.”
Was this article valuable?
Here are more articles you may enjoy.