| Prescott Basin is located in central
Arizona at an elevation
of approximately 5,300 feet amid the largest stand of ponderosa pine
in the world. The Prescott Basin is an intermix hazard situation with
homes, businesses, watersheds and infrastructure at risk from wildfire.
Surrounded by Prescott
National Forest on the west, south and east, the primary vegetation
type is ponderosa pine, juniper and manzanita. Current drought conditions
exacerbate the wildfire risk and have contributed to an ips bark beetle
epidemic that has killed over 50% of the ponderosa pine in the interface.
According to the US
Census Bureau, the median annual household income is $35,446
and the median home value is $162,700. The population of Prescott
is 33,938 with a total of 167,517 in surrounding Yavapai County.
During the summer fire season the population
significantly increases. The area draws about 20,000 campers and
tourists, over a thousand homeless people and 4,000 - 10,000 kids
a week attending 27 various youth camps. Fire poses a significant
hazard to the Prescott tourism and retirement economy. Blackened
hills would bring a halt to revenues from all these sources. The
city is dedicated to protecting the aesthetic value that makes the
area an attractive vacation and retirement destination.
On May 15, 2002 the Indian Fire
burned 1,345 acres south east of Prescott. 1,500 people were evacuated,
but no lives were lost and only seven structures burned. The cost
of fighting the fire stands at approximately $3,000,000. Quick and
coordinated response by firefighters and previous fuels reduction
projects were credited for preventing a greater disaster.
Addressing the Threat
Prescott Area Wildland/Urban
Interface Commission (PAWUIC)
reduce the occurrence and effects of wildland and structural fire
in the Prescott Basin 'at risk neighborhoods' through sufficient
fire prevention, fire prevention planning, vegetation management,
fire safe construction, public education, adequate infrastructure
and fire suppression."
-Prescott Area Wildland Urban
Interface Commission mission statement
Area Wildland/Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC) is the main
entity for coordinating activity to respond to the wildfire threat
facing the Prescott area and was created to facilitate interagency
cooperation. PAWUIC is a city and county jointly chartered, unpaid,
volunteer, citizen-led commission that includes key individuals
from city, county, state and national agencies. The PAWUIC mission
statement is "To reduce the occurrence and effects of wildland
and structural fire in the Prescott Basin 'at risk neighborhoods'
through sufficient fire prevention, fire prevention planning, vegetation
management, fire safe construction, public education, adequate infrastructure
and fire suppression".
PAWUIC started in 1990 when the city manger of Prescott, the chairman
of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors and the Prescott National
Forest Supervisor recognized the problem facing Prescott and decided
to act. The group recognized the public must drive the process and
decided to present some of the issues at stake to members of the
community. According to Ed Hollingshead, PAWUIC member, "We
must understand and accept that agencies and government entities
cannot resolve the wildland/urban interface challenge alone. Only
'We, the people...' can do it. The effort must rely on the wealth
of expertise and energy in the community. The success of the wildland/urban
interface effort ultimately relies on citizen understanding the
issues and demanding their resolution".
A Commissioned Agency
PAWUIC is unique because it is a formal organization.
Counterpart organizations in Flagstaff and elsewhere are non
profit organizations that are not commissioned by the community.
PAWUIC is a formally commissioned entity sanctioned by the
city and the county. PAWUIC includes 15 formal members and
covers five jurisdictions, including City
of Prescott, Yavapai
Yavapai Fire District, Arizona
State Land Fire Management Division and Prescott
National Forest. Additional members volunteer their services
and time and about 35 people attend a monthly meeting held
the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. The tasks of the
PAWUIC include: advising the cooperating agencies; identifying,
developing, prioritizing and addressing wildland/urban interface
issues facing citizens; developing plans and actions for management
of identified issues; making recommendations to appropriate
levels of government; pursuing the development of agreements
among owners and operators of private land to implement plans;
providing cooperating agencies with a quarterly report on
progress and activities. According to PAWUIC Chairman Al Bates,
"PAWUIC's role is to provide the cooperation coordination."
There are four task forces that work under PAWUIC.
These are: 1) the Interagency Fire and Emergency Management
Group; 2) Growth and Planning; 3) Forest Health; and 4) Public
Education. The Interagency Fire and Emergency Management Group
includes agencies and entities responsible for managing emergency
incidents in the area. They have three sub-groups: Executive
Group, Public Education and Operations.
Progress in Prescott
PAWUIC and its member agencies have undertake
a variety of activities in the area. They developed an evacuation
plan for the Prescott area and changed the rural addressing
system to assist with evacuation. They also encouraged a change
in roofing material requirement within the City of Prescott.
They have improved cooperation in emergency services, and improved
public involvement in and awareness of emergency services. They
have improved public awareness of wildland /urban interface
Progress in Prescott has been slow and it does
not come easily. Charlie Cook, Central Yavapai Fire District
Fire Marshall, believes it takes years and years. "And
a lot of it is just convincing homeowners that here is a problem.
A lot of the people think [a fire] will never happen to them.
We've been doing public education for years and we're making
baby steps in effectiveness". Progress includes the surrounding
public lands as well. Al Bates, PAWUIC Chairman, "We
all have a common goal of making our homes more defensible.
And that includes both sides of the Forest Service fence or
the state land".
must understand and accept that agencies and government entities
cannot resolve the wildland/urban interface challenge alone.
Only 'We, the people...' can do it. The effort must rely on
the wealth of expertise and energy in the community. The success
of the wildland/urban interface effort ultimately relies on
citizen understanding the issues and demanding their resolution".
Hollingshead, PAWUIC member