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

WGA Goal - Improve Fire Prevention and Suppression


Actions to meet goal

  • Improve firefighting capability/readiness to protect communities and the environment
  • Reduce incidence of injury to life and property resulting from catastrophic wildland fire
  • Expand outreach and education to homeowners
  • Develop a consistent preparedness model among partners

Cooperation and Interagency Fire Management

Interagency Fire and Emergency Management Group (IFEMG)

One of the first steps taken by Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC) was to form a subgroup to improve cooperation between all the area fire agencies. The Interagency Fire and Emergency Management Group (IFEMG) is part of PAWUIC but also independent of it. It brings together the Fire Chiefs, the designees and emergency management teams to work over plans including the evacuation plans. New procedures and training techniques were put in place and the agencies began testing procedures on the ground to see if they would work.

When the next major fire sweeps through Prescott, IFEMG has in place an orderly evacuation plan that is coordinated among the county, City of Prescott, Prescott National Forest and local fire districts. The county notifies residents of an approaching wildfire in two ways. They have a media alert system that includes radio and TV public announcements. Also a hands-on approach is used to notify residents. The sheriff takes the lead in notifying the public and goes door-to-door. There is a Jeep Posse, about 75 radio-equipped, 4-wheel drive vehicles with people trained in search, rescue and evacuation that helps the sheriff with door-to-door contact. Residents have a brochure that includes a door hanger with a detachable panel to notify the emergency service that the structure has been evacuated.

Interagency Cooperation in Action

"Our biggest success is the Forest Service and us working together, having a plan and we're one voice."

-Prescott Fire Chief Darrell Willis

Two weeks prior to the 2002 Indian Fire, the Prescott area fire and emergency management agencies had practiced an evacuation and fire drill. According to Prescott City Fire Chief Darrell Willis, all the players knew exactly which radio frequency to use, where people would go when they were evacuated, and the division of responsibilities among agencies. "It's just like one team working together. We had people doing the management of the fire with the incident commander. Division supervisors, structure protection, strike teams, we just all worked together". During the Indian Fire 1,500 people were moved in an hour with no problem. One of the biggest successes was the cooperation among the various agencies. Chief Willis believes there is not a fence line between agencies any longer. "We work closely with the Forest Service and the state. Our biggest success is the Forest Service and us working together, having a plan and we're one voice".

Community Outreach

Defensible space and evacuation are the major components to PAWUIC's education program. Multiple media are used and include a video called "Living on the Edge", power point programs, brochures, posters and newspapers. PAWUIC Defensible propertyalso sets up booths at most local events. Slides are shown at the movie theaters and PAWUIC produced a video that is shown on public access television. The Prescott Fire Department has developed good relationships with local reporters, which is important in getting the message out.

Since 1999 PAWUIC has organized "Town Hall Meetings". Town hall meetings have been a useful tool for educating people, especially as the community population changes. Prescott is a fast growing community, with a 27% population increase from 1990 to 2000 and a predicted growth of 24% by 2010. At the town meetings Power Point presentations and a simulation of a wildfire burning southwest of Prescott have been used to educate the public. PAWUIC handed out literature and had displays. Attendance has varied at these meetings. Normally, the town hall meetings are attended by around 350 people. After the Indian Fire in 2002, 800 people attended.

Defensible space signDefensible space signs are posted strategically throughout the Prescott area. The State Farm Insureance agency donated money to produce 40 signs that advertise the defensible space program and provide contact information. The city and county donated the labor for installation of the signs throughout the city and county.

PAWUIC, Prescott Fire Department and Central Yavapai Fire District work through organized homeowners associations and in other subdivisions where they are not organized, they use door hangers or other outreach to notify people of a meeting in their area.

The Regional Alert Information web site is sponsored by PAWUIC and provides local information as well as emergency public information in the Prescott area and Yavapai County. Local government agencies post alerts on such events as wildfires, evacuations, prescribed burns, police emergencies, and other notices.

 

Firefighting Capabilities

Prescott Fire Department has 67 firefighters and 78 paid employees and provides fire protection services to a 38.4 square mile area. Central Yavapai Fire District has 75 full-time firefighters and 25 volunteers and provides fire protection services to a 150 square mile area. Prescott Fire Department and Central Yavapai Fire District have a very good working relationship with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The USFS houses their vehicles and personnel in Yavapai Fire District's fire station and they jointly man together. Yavapai Fire District and Prescott Fire Department conduct yearly drills together with all the fire departments from around the region and the USFS. Also, Central Yavapai Fire District has two Type I fire teams, plus the USFS Regional Fire Center and an air tanker base are located in the Prescott area.

Fire Center sign

Fire Codes

The Prescott City Council changed the city's fire codes in July 2002 under recommendations from PAWUIC. At that time, they adopted;

  • Ordinance 4222, the 2000 International Fire Code
  • Ordinance 4223, the 2000 Urban-Wildland Interface Code
  • Ordinance 4244, an amendment to the 2000 International Fire Code
  • Ordinance 4245, an amendment to the 2000 Urban-Wildland Interface Code
  • Resolution 3454, adoption of revised fees
  • Application for fire systems plan approval
  • Permitted service fees
  • Vegetation management plan compliance requirements

The adoption of these codes meant that Prescott has changed the mapping of the wildland urban interface area, and engaged in more proactive vegetation management. They are currently working to adopt the 2003 International Urban Wildland Interface Code, which will reduce the tree count to 85 trees per acre for non hydrated parcels and hydrated parcels will maintain 200 trees per acre. The current code allows 275 trees per acre. An additional effort by the USFS is using a basal area of 40-60 on property that borders the city of Prescott or the Central Yavapai Fire District, which is down from 80-120 basal area.

After the 2002 Indian Fire, Prescott City Fire Chief Darrell Willis worked hard to pass a new building ordinance in November 2002. Now, Prescott requires masonry, stucco exterior, eave protection and defensible space before a home can be occupied. This applies only to new construction. The Fire Department completes an inspection and will identify defensible space requirements for the property owners. Until the defensible space is prepared, no combustible material can be delivered to the lot.

Architects and developers were the main opposition to new building ordinances, until Chief Willis put together a group of 25 developers and architects to overcome the obstacles. The main issue was cost, until the group researched the additional price tag. They estimated that it would only cost an additional $2,000-5,000 per house, a small amount to add to a $300,000-500,000 home. After that, opposition dissipated and the ordinances were passed.

Fuels Management/Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator

The Prescott Fire Department hired Duane Steinbrink as a Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator in 2001. His duties include performing responsible technical and administrative work involving wildland fire safety and forest health. Steinbrink leads the Wildland Division consisting of a Fuels Assessor, Program Coordinator, Fuels Management Supervisor and a 12-man brush crew. All these positions were originally funded by the State Fire Assistance grant. Steinbrink's position recently went to a permanent position and is now funded by Prescott Fire Department.

Vegetation Management Plan

Prescott Fire Department Wildland Division Vegetation Management Plan utilizes a three zone approach for defensible space with specific vegetation modification recommendations for each zone. Zone 1: 0-10 feet from the buildings, structure or deck, Zone 2: 10-30 feet from buildings, structure or deck, and Zone 3 30-150 feet from the buildings, structure, or deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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