Improve Fire Prevention and Suppression Reduce Hazardous FuelsRestore Fire Adapted Ecosystems Promote Community AssistanceSummary

 

WGA Goal - Reduce Hazardous Fuels


Actions to meet goal

  • Reduce acres at risk
  • Ensure communities most at risk receive priority
  • Expand and improve integration of hazardous fuels management program
  • Incorporate public health and environmental quality considerations in fire management activities
  • Develop smoke management plans in conjunction with prescribed fire planning
  • Address fire-prone ecosystem problems
  • Maintain areas improved by fuels treatment
  • Conduct and utilize research to support the reduction of hazardous fuels in WUI communities
  • Factor in local environmental conditions during fuels treatment planning

Town of Eagar

 

WUI picture

Mechanical Thinning

In 2002, the Eagar Fire Department received $18,800 from a AZ State Land Department State Fire Assistance grant to thin eight miles of pinon pine, juniper and ponderosa pine along the National Forest in the southwest portion of town. The money was intended to purchase a wood chipper and assist residents in Eagar, Alpine and Greer with thinning, pruning and chipping on private property to reduce fire risk. Having a chipper available to the three communities was to give the citizens a method to dispose of material that is removed from their properties. It also would provide an avenue for the local fire departments to be proactive with the citizens to provide the emphasis for fire safe communities in the WUI. The goal was to accomplish at least 10 acres of thinning/pruning and chipping for demonstration projects within each community within the first year for at total of 30 acres. By the end of 2003, these projects had not happened. While Eagar, Alpine and Greer were awarded the SFA grant in 2002 for a chipper, Alpine and Greer were unable to come up with their portion of the matching funds. Chief Carlson could not justify Eagar paying the entire match since he did not feel the town would use the chipper enough to warrant the cost. The grant reverted to the State.

 

Town Clean Up

Every April or May starting in 1996, Eagar has had a town cleanup period that lasts about two weeks. As part of this effort, the town comes by and takes slash with dump trucks and front end loaders. The Fire Department burns large piles of slash as well. They burn 50-75 piles a year in this fashion to reduce fuels.

 

Prescribed Burning

In 2001, Eagar Fire Department received a $10,900 State Fire Assistance (SFA) grant from the AZ State Land Department program to prescribe burn 400 acres on the west and south side of town to reduce the risk of large fires burning into the community. Fine fuel loading is high in locations within the town limits and adjacent to the community's boundaries. The goal is to reduce fuel loading and break up the continuity of fuel to reduce the wildfire risk. The community is bordered on the south side by eight miles of Apache National Forest and three miles of AZ state land on the west.

The community is classified as high risk due to the wildland urban interface and proximity to forested land. Burning was to take place on private and AZ State Lands and would be conducted in conjunction with Eagar VFD and the USFS. By the end of 2003, they had treated 350 acres of private land with prescribed burning through this grant. Burning is conducted at a landowner's request. If a private landowner wants a field or property burned they contact the fire department. The fire department will perform the burn at no cost to the land owner. There is no coordination with State Land Department or USFS when the town schedules these burns.

In 2002, the Eagar Fire Department received an additional $12,500 from a AZ State Land Department SFA grant to prescribe burn 300 acres of fine fuels to reduce the risk of wildland fires threatening the lives and destroying property. The 2002 grant was also intended for landowner requested prescribed burning. By the end of 2003, these projects had not happened. According to Chief Carlson, manpower and time are the holdup. Since Carlson is the only paid, full-time fireman, he is spread thin and finds it difficult to keep up with the administrative processes that go along with the SFA grants, as well as finding the manpower from an all volunteer fire fighting force to do the work. If the grant is not usedt within a two year period, the money will be returned to the AZ State Land Department.

 

US Forest Service

The Forest Service has not aggressively pursued ANF Signfuel reduction projects on their lands that abut private property in Eagar. In 2001, 2002 and 2003 the USFS has not thinned or prescribe burned acreage near Eagar. However, the Eagar South project is currently an Environmental Impact Analysis. The analysis area is in the most at-risk area south of Eagar, where the vegetation transitions from grass to pinon-juniper. Treatment is likely to begin in 2006 for this project. According to the local USFS and Arizona State Land Department, Eagar is not at significant high risk of wildfire. The real risk is in the surrounding communities located in ponderosa pine forests, such as Greer, Alpine, Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low.

White Mountain Stewardship Project

In 2004 Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest put out to bid the White Mountains Stewardship Project —a ten-year, 150,000 acre project that will offer from 5,000 acres to 20,000 acres of forest lands to contractors each year, making this project the largest restoration project in the nation. Many believe the White Mountain project will be the key to successfully developing the SDT industry in the area.Stewardship contracts are the key to the White Mountain project. A stewardship contract allows for the costs of removal of small diameter residue and slash to be exchanged for the value of the excess forest products that are removed. One goal is to find uses for all the wood fiber thereby reducing the amount of wood burned in the forest. One of the features of a stewardship contract is the capability to have a 10-year term which will encourage businesses to invest in the future of forest restoration activities.

The contract will be a "performance based service contract" with evaluation factors which not only encourages contractors to propose a variety of methods to efficiently produce quality end results in the forest but requires use of local labor and industry to produce and market wood products. Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Supervisor Elaine Zieroth said, "In the past, separate contracts have been awarded for multi-product timber harvest with associated slash treatments. This was usually followed by another entry for the thinning of some small diameter trees with treatment of that slash. This is inefficient and therefore more costly to the taxpayer. The stewardship contract allows us to combine these multiple entries into one operation which should result in a cost savings to the taxpayer and produce a healthier forest in a shorter time".
According to Zieroth, "The forest lands we're needing to work on in this contract are in the wildland/urban interface which currently have anywhere from 300 to 3,000 trees per acre on them. We hope to reduce those numbers closer to what grew there historically which was about 20 to 60 trees per acre. We've got to reduce the number of trees across the Forests on a large scale so that the threat of catastrophic fire will be minimized and enabling the remaining trees to better resist drought and insects."

Three site visits will be offered to potential contractors to demonstrate the level of effort that will be required of them. Award of the contract will be based upon the proposal that provides the best value to the government with consideration given to past performance, local economic development and employment, and methods proposed to accomplish the work.

The first project is a 15,000 acre parcel near the town of Mineral. Walker Brothers, a thinning contractor, thinned 200 acres in this area in 2003 in preparation for the larger project. The USFS paid $375 an acre for treatment. Walker Brothers used Northern Arizona University's restoration prescription of mosaics and 40-50 basal area. There were two appeals on the 15,000 acre Mineral project by the Center for Biological Diversity and White Mountain Conservation League. The USFS settled them by altering the prescription to take out trees over 16 inches in diameter. This had the consequence of impacting the economic value of the sal. The changes were valuable because they allowed the USFS to develop a working relationship with the Center for Biological Diversity. The Mineral project was NEPA complete in August of 2002. NEPA work took nearly three years because of larger the project size, 15,000 acres.

Eagar WUI

 


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