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.
biggest success is the Forest Service and us working together, having
a plan and we're one voice."
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".
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 also
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
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.
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
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.
Fire Department has 67 firefighters and 78 paid employees
and provides fire protection services to a 38.4 square mile
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
Regional Fire Center and an air tanker base are located
in the Prescott area.
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
- Ordinance 4223, the 2000 Urban-Wildland Interface
- 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
Fuels Management/Wildland Urban Interface
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.