Local Fuels Reduction Efforts
Prescott City/Yavapai County Defensible
Space and Slash Disposal Program
Prescott and Yavapai County have a coordinated response
to deal with hazardous fuel reduction on private property. The Central
Yavapai Fire District works in conjunction with Yavapai Emergency
Services and Prescott Fire Department to help land owners treat
their property. They have two dominant programs to assist in the
treatment of private property-a program to create defensible space
around homes and a program that places a chipper in a community
to help residents chip their slash and dispose of excess vegetation.
Both programs are free to the residents. The idea for the fuels
management program was put together by Prescott Fire Chief Darrell
Willis. When the National Fire Plan monies came along in 2001, Prescott
and Yavapai County were prepared to take advantage of the grants.
Prescott and Yavapai County now have a total of five chippers to
reduce hazardous fuels in the area.
The Prescott City and Yavapai County Defensible Space
and Slash Disposal program is funded by two separate grant programs.
The Arizona State Fire Assistance (SFA) grants have helped pay for
salaries for brush crews to do the defensible space work, while
FEMA mitigation grants have helped defray expenses associated with
the purchase of three chippers to facilitate the slash disposal
Arizona State Fire Assistance (SFA)
The Arizona SFA Grant Program targets hazard mitigation
in the Wildland Urban Interface for mitigating risks of hazardous
fire conditions through fuels reduction, information and education
and homeowner and community defensible space treatments. The program
is a 50/50 match, that requires homeowners to pay 50% of the cost
for creating defensible space. In 2001 and 2002, Arizona disbursed
almost $3 million in SFA grants to communities throughout Arizona.
PAWUIC was awarded $168,000 in 2001 and $360,685
in 2002 in SFA grants to help pay for the fuels reduction program.
The SFA grants provided funding for the wildland division and brush
crew salaries. While the Arizona SFA Grant Program requires a 50%
homeowner contribution, in Prescott the city and county absorb this
cost. Matching funds have come from the Prescott Fire Department
and the Central Yavapai Fire District, in kind equipment donations
for the Arizona Public Service Company and equipment maintenance
performed by Yavapai County, and volunteer hours donated to the
project. Nick Angiolillo, with Yavapai County Emergency Management,
is the fiscal agent for the Arizona State Fire Assistance grants.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
FEMA Mitigation grants provided $49,500 through 50/50
match grants that enabled the county to purchase a chipper in 2000
and two chippers in 2002. PAWUIC raised the money from the county
and local companies such as State Farm Insurance and Arizona Power
Service for the 50% match. Once the chippers were purchased and
brush crews funded, PAWUIC began providing the service to homeowners.
Homeowner Assessments and Defensible
Yavapai Emergency Services and the Central Yavapai
Fire District send out mailings, sponsor community meetings and
send firefighters out to the neighborhoods to promote the fuels
reduction program. People call the fire departments who want to
have their property treated and they are placed on a list. The brush
crews go in community by community and do the work. When the crews
move into a new community, the residents on the list are called
and advised the crews will be working in their subdivision. An assessment
on the property is required prior to treatment.
The Fire Department completes a 30-foot assessment
of how to treat the property. The prescription used by Central Yavapai
Fire District is basically to space things out-to see light between
the trees, keep the trees from touching. Prescott Wildland Division
uses the Prescott Vegetation Plan to determine defensible space.
From 2001 to the end of 2003, Prescott Fire Department and Central
Yavapai Fire District have completed 2097 assessments and treated
a total of 2059 properties or homes.
On average depending on the property and the vegetation,
the brush crew can treat three properties a day at a cost of $1,200
a day or $400 per property. If a contractor is hired to treat the
property the cost is between $1,200-2,500 per property.
Initially, only six people signed up for the SFA Grant
Program. People were concerned about how the property would look.
But, soon after the first properties were thinned in 2001, applications
for the program increased to 300. After the Indian Fire in 2002,
applications increased as well. There was a backlog for a while,
but now the Fire Departments are catching up. Interest has slowed
in 2003, since it was a wet year and there was no fire.
Since the beginning of the program in 2001 to the
end of 2003, PAWUIC has thinned more than 2,698 acres of the highest
risk properties in the Prescott Basin. At least another 1,000 homes
have treated their own properties with the help of PAWUIC's chipping
support. From May 2002 to May 2003, 628 properties were treated,
and 687 properties were assessed, and 1,800 properties are on the
Slash Dump Site
slash from defensible space projects is taken to the county dump
where PAWUIC has negotiated discounted fees. Instead of charging
$55 for a pick up truck full of debris, the county now charges $5.
The county also has "free" dumps days twice a year. On
those days the dump is opened and people can bring in their slash
Disposal/Utilization of the Debris
The Prescott area has a surplus of debris from defensible
space and thinning projects.The city has 30,000 cubic yards of chipped
material in storage. In August 2003, Prescott City Council approved
the purchase of an air curtain destructor to help dispose of slash
and other yard waste. The device costs $100,000 and prevents smoke
and flaming debris from escaping. According to Yavapai County Emergency
Manager Coordinator Nick Angiolillo, disposing of the surplus debris
is equally as challenging as developing the defensible space. "The
county tried using an air curtain destructor, but it was too slow.
Commercial development holds the most promise toward a permanent
solution to this problem".
Hazardous Tree Removal Program
In addition to the defensible space and slash disposal
programs, in January 2003 the city and county started a Hazardous
Tree Removal Program. The Tree Removal Program evolved in response
to the demand for bug infested and killed trees to be removed. Residents
were paying up to $350 to remove a bug kill tree from their property.
Prescott Fire Chief Darrell Willis contacted a local logging contractor
to determine the cost to remove trees a subdivision at a time. They
worked out a deal where the contractor removes all hazardous trees
for $35 and the city charges an additional $15 to remove slash.
This is in contrast to hundreds of dollars per tree that homeowners
were being charged. The effective cost to the homeowner is now $50
People call the fire department to have their name
put on a list. The contractor removes the trees and the fire department
sends the bill to the homeowner. The south side of town initially
was prioritized for work and now they are moving north. By the end
of 2003, the program had removed 9,723 trees in the city and county.
The tree removal program basically pays for itself. In 2004, the fire
department plans to increase the cost by $10 a tree to allow the program
to remain self sustaining. Consequently, the inside of the city is
in good shape-not many brown or dead trees. Outside the city is a
different story. In Yavapai County, the County Works Department now
is taking over the program to help homeowners in the County.
Maintaining the properties after treatment is
a problem. The summer of 2003 was very wet and the vegetation
grew. Prescott Fire Department sent out letters to the properties
that were treated in the past and asked that property owners
maintain their defensible space. But it is unclear how many
homeowners have maintained their property. In the county,
only about 50% of the properties are being maintained.
Another problem is created if the State Fire
Assistance Grant Program goes away. The Prescott Fire Department
would like to be in a position where they still would be able
to hire a six person crew to do the defensible space and brush
Apathy is also a problem. With one wet season,
people begin to forget about the high wildfire risk. After
the Indian fire everyone wanted defensible space. The Prescott
Fire Department was bombarded with work. Since then there
has been a decrease in interest. Duane Steinbrink, Prescott
Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator, believes that is where
the apathy comes in. "That's where we have to step back
and do the education process again". An additional problem
is dealing with the bug killed treesno one is prepared
to take the wood which makes those areas expensive to treat.
Beyond Warren Kuhles, a local recycler, and a sawmill in Ashfork
there are few options for debris disposal.
US Forest Service (USFS) Projects
The Prescott Basin is 60,000 acres with 30,000
homes and $2 billion worth of property. In 2000 the USFS treated
1,760 acres in the Prescott Basin Vegetation Project and 531
acres in 2001.
The Prescott National Forest will be funded
almost $1.2 million for fuel reduction projects in FY2004.
The USFS has several projects underway and more planned. The
USFS has initiated a project creating a horseshoe shaped buffer
around the southwest side of Prescott called the "Boundary
Project". The project entails treating 28,000 acres on
USFS property and 5,000 acres of private property over a period
of 10 years. The project will cost $10-15 million, including
repeat burnings. Mechanical treatment could cost $500-800
an acre. The project was sent out in May 2003 for public comment.
Currently the USFS is completing the environmental analysis
and assessment in response to issues raised during the comments
The project includes commercial harvesting,
so it has become controversial. Prescott National Forest Friends
(PNFF) has raised the most questions. "[The USFS] have
completely ignored the impacts on the watershed" said
Jim Powers of PNFF. The Boundary Project is on areas of land
with some loose, granite type soil that will be subject to
erosion that may pose a threat to water quality.
The NEPA analysis for the Boundary Project cost
$300,000 and took 1.5 years. The prescription is to thin to
40-60 basal area within a quarter mile of private land, then
from a quarter mile out feather it out from 60 basal to 100
basal. A big issue is how to handle bug killed trees, according
to Roy Fluhart, Prescott National Forest Fire Planning Group
Leader. "If you cut them all down or even leave a few
for snags, you've exceeded your 40-60 basal area." Figuring
out how to deal with bug kill trees is currently holding up
the project. To date, no work has been done on the Boundary
Project. Another big challenge on the Boundary Project is
air quality. The ponderosa pine ecosystem requires frequent
fire and the USFS will need to burn 1,200 acres a year, which
might be opposed by the public.
Other USFS Projects
The Boundary Project is just one of several
projects in the Basin. While the Boundary Project is still
in the planning stage, other projects are being implemented
or are being maintained with burning. The USFS has planned
and carried out several fuels reductions projects even prior
to the National Fire Plan. They started on the concept for
the Boundary Project in 2000, before the Fire Plan came along.
The Fire Plan provided the needed funding.
Southwest of Prescott is a priority for fuels
reduction projects due to the prevailing winds and because
this area is where most of the human caused fires are started.
Fuels reduction projects around subdivisions are prioritized
according to where the most people benefit. In 1998, brush
crush was used on 311 acres at Crooks Maverick. 500 acres
in Ponderosa Park was treated with prescribed fire in 1999.
In 2003 the "Kingswood Hassayampa Brush Crush" project
was initiated. This project entails a total of 1,357 acres
under treatment near the Thumb Butte Recreation Area at a
cost of about $430 per acre for brush crews. The goal of this
project is to reduce the height and density of chaparral fuels
by 70% and subsequent threat of wildfire hazard. The remaining
30% is left in place for wildlife protection, watershed, soil
and riparian resource values. Goats were used on 300 acres
at a cost of $65,000, but have not been as effective as hoped.
Arizona State Land Projects
State Land Department manages state trust land in Arizona.
There are 10 million acres that are held in trust for 13 public
institutions, mostly schools. The land generates revenue.
The State Fire Management Division within the Land Department
prevents and suppressed wildland fires on state trust land
and all private land outside of fire districts. Most state
land is low desert scrub and does not surround communities
that have been identified as high fire risk. However Arizona
State Land manages Government Acres, 1,500 acres of land south
of Prescott and this area is considered high risk. A fuels
reduction project is currently being planned. The assessment
is complete and the management plan is close to completion.
The assessment was contracted out for $35,000 to Rich Van
Demark and $100,000 is slated for implementation. Additional
funds are needed to complete the entire project area. The
communities on the north end of Government Acres are the priority
due to the predominate winds, which would funnel right up
the canyon. The second priority is on the east end of Prescott
and the community of Oak Knolls to the south is the third
State Farm Insurance Reinspection
State Farm Insurance is pioneering a wildfire
reinspection process in Prescott as part of their regular
reinspection program. After the Rodeo-Chediski fire around
Show Low in 2002 and the smaller Indian Fire in Prescott,
the agency realized, "there's only so much that can be
done to prevent forest fires but a lot can be done to prevent
claims". The program will be implemented in Colorado,
Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona. State Farm
started the program in Prescott by mapping all the areas that
were at the greatest risk-areas for agents to be aware of.
The maps help the underwriter when he or she inspects the
property. When the underwriter is with the homeowner, then
the agent can advise on the creation of defensible space before
they underwrite and give the homeowner an option on the policy.
State Farm is currently in the process of informing
existing policyholders by mail about the new defensible space
policy. LuWanna Nielsen, State Farm Public Affairs Specialist,
hopes working with customers over the period of 18 to 24 months
will encourage them to take the appropriate action on their
property. Articles and notices also are appearing in the newspaper.
To assist homeowners in dealing with the new policy, State
Farm has contributed to the purchase of three chippers and
defensible space signs for neighborhoods.