City of Flagstaff
Fuels Reduction Program
Fire Department is currently engaged in thinning and prescribed
fire activities throughout the city. According to Paul Summerfelt,
Flagstaff Fuel Management Officer (FMO), there are not a lot of fire
departments that can say they light more fires than they put out,
but the Fuels
Management Division has a very active prescribed fire program.
They conduct 30-50 burns a year. Since 1996 they have thinned 4,840
acres, while prescribed burning 3,026 acres. Their biggest frustration
is the weather, which prohibits more prescribed burning. Most of the
acres burned by prescribed fire are on private property, approximately
65%, with the remainder on a variety of public lands-- 5% county,
15% city, 10% state and 5% federal.
of Flagstaff is unique because it has its own Fuel Management
Division within the Fire Department. The Fuel Management Division
has been engaged in an active fuel reduction and education program
since 1996. In 1996 the city started its first demonstration project
behind one of the fire stations in the middle of town. A 20-acre
plot was overstocked at about 350 stems an acre. The one acre was
initially treated so people could clearly see the difference between
120 stems an acre and 350 stems an acre. This first demonstration
project was costly, about $30,000 for the single acre because of
all the scrutiny and preparation it received. Hundreds of hours
of time were spent on it. It was marked multiple times. People watched
every tree come down. According to Summerfelt, it was money well
spent, "Everybody got their say, everybody watched, everybody
had an input". In 1999 an additional 30 acres around the original
one acre site were treated. Then in 2001 additional acres across
the street were treated for a total of 200 hundred acres. Today
the original demonstration site is indistinguishable because of
on-going treatments within the city.
In 1997, the city hired their first Fuel Management
Officer, Paul Summerfelt. In 1999 the City Council allocated seasonal
crew money. The crew members arrive in early May and work until
mid-November and are made up of students, locals and some people
from the Hopi reservation. The city also started an intern program
in 1999, through Northern Arizona University. Interns need 15-18
contact hours for credit. At the end of the semester the interns
write a paper for their course outlining what they accomplished.
In 2000 the Fire Department hired an Assistant Fuel Manager, Mark
Shiery and in 2001 they hired three squad bosses. Every year a few
hundred people from sororities, fraternities, church groups, boy
scouts, etc., volunteer their time. They help clean up treated site
and remove wood.
With the additional labor and support, the Fuels
Management Division has been able to increase its treatment of fuels
over time. The Fuels Management Division began with treating 1 acre
in 1996 and today treats in excess of 1,500 acres per year. In 1996
the city thinned 230 acres and burned 80 acres. In 1998 they thinned
100 acres and prescribed burned 110 acres. In 1999 they thinned
620 acres and burned 330 acres. In 2000 they thinned 830 acres and
burned 440 acres. In 2001 they thinned 1,250 acres and burned 510
acres. In 2002 they thinned 1,126 acres and burned 538 acres. They
have supported this work with funding from AZ State Land Department
through the National Fire Plan.
In 2001 the city received a grant for $150,000
for 1,000 acres of thinning throughout the city to develop stewardship
plans and mark the property for treatment. In 2002 the Fire Department
received a grant $123,750 for hazardous fuel reduction on 750 acres
within the City. In 2003 they received a grant for $120,000 for
hazardous fuel reduction on 600 acres within and adjacent to City.
Fuel Management Division works with homeowners to reduce hazardous
fuels on their property in a variety of ways. They carry out everything
from providing advice to preparing a stewardship plan. A stewardship
plan is an assessment of the conditions on the property and recommendations
to improve forest health, address insect disease and mitigate fire
risk. The city Planning Division and Fire Department have an administrative
program that requires a forest stewardship plan to be prepared and
implemented for new developments or new building permits. They also
complete stewardship plans for existing homes or properties at no
charge. The Fuel Management Division will mark the property owner's
trees. However, cutting on private property is left to the private
sector contractors. Periodically, the Fuel Management Division will
hold workshops with local contractors concerning the Division's
program standards. The contractors that attend are placed on a list
provided to the property owner after the stewardship plan is completed.
On average, the homeowner can expect to pay $350-450 per acre for
treatment. The stewardship plans are funded through monies procured
from Northern Arizona University and the Ecological Restoration
Institute, city appropriations and the National Fire Plan.
In 2001, Stewardship Plans were developed on 1,950
acres and 470 acres marked. In 2002, Stewardship Plans were developed
on 614 acres and 605 acres marked. In 2003, Stewardship Plans were
developed on 1,472 acres and 765 acres marked.
The southwest part of Flagstaff is at the greatest
risk from wildfire given prevailing winds and has been the priority
for treatment. Beyond this prioritization, the Fuel Management Division
has been more "opportunistic" in its approach. They found
that targeting and prioritizing was difficult because there were
people outside of those prioritized areas who were very interested
in reducing hazardous fuels on their property. "So what we've
chosen to do is not worry about the people that won't do it, but
help those who will". As a result of this approach, they have
found that neighbors observe and then request the service. "We
have just found that it has been more effective rather than beat
ourselves against the wall trying to deal with people that are a
little hesitant. We'll jump on those who are willing to do it and
then neighbors start filling in the holes". At the end of 2003,
the Fuel Management Division had a backlog of 2 years of work, so
demand for the program has not been a problem. "The biggest
challenge I think we have is trying to meet the need
longer have to convince people this is the right thing to do. Now
all we have to do is meet what people want done in a timely manner.
All of our vendors [contractors] are maxed. They are so busy that
if you were to call them right now, it might be 6 months before
they can get to your property". There are 12-13 contractors
on their current list.
Targeted Home Assessment Campaign
In 2003, the Fire Department began a home assessment
campaign to target 900 homes in the University Heights development.
This is the first time the Fire Department targeted an area because
of the development's location on the southwest side of the city.
In the spring and summer of 2003, Fuel Management Division notified
property owners of their plan to visit neighborhoods and evaluate
defensible space around homes. If the Fire Department identified
issues that need to be corrected, the homeowner was contacted again.
As of December 2003, 350 out of the 900 assessment have been completed.
About 1/3 of the properties needed work. Summerfelt is fairly confident
the work is getting done because people are calling his office to
request a stewardship plan for their property and to obtain the
US Forest Service
National Forest has numerous thinning projects completed,
currently planned or ongoing within Flagstaff and on national
forest lands surrounding the greater Flagstaff area. Many
of these projects are stewardship contracts or various projects
that exchange goods for services and are designation by description.
These areas include Fort Valley, A-1 Mountain, Skunk Canyon,
Lake Mary, Pumphouse and Mars Hill. As of January 2003 approximately
1,100 acres were thinned on USFS lands with approximately
900 acres under contract to thin. Additionally, 750 acres
have been broadcast burned with many other acres of slash
The work on the Greater
Flagstaff Forest Partnership (GFFP) consists of 100,000
acres and treatment proceeds with the USFS as a major partner.
Due to the Partnership's national exposure, they had been
perceived as a threat to environmental organizations seeking
the elimination of commercial logging on national forests.
Other groups opposed the restoration models developed by Wally
Covington at Northern Arizona University.
first contract was awarded for the Fort Valley Project in
September 2001. The Fort Valley Project was appealed three
times and litigated by the Forest Conservation Council, National
Forest Protection Alliance, Forest Guardians and Flagstaff
Activists Network. The suit was settled with an agreement
for a new Decision Notice that was finalized in June 2001.
After two years of delays, the project is scheduled for completion
in December 2006. Fort Valley is estimated to cost $1,212,000.
In FY2001 1,596 acres had been thinned and 262 acres had been
prescribed burned on the Fort Valley Project.
In addition to the Fort Valley Project,
the USFS also is engaged in the Arboretum, Airport, Elden,
Kachina, Woody and Mountainair stewardship contracts. The
Arboretum Project completed NEPA work in September 2000 and
was not appealed or litigated. Arboretum is estimated to cost
$87,000. A total of 1,062 acres were thinned and 200 acres
were prescribed burned on the Fort Valley and Arboretum in
FY2002. In January 2003 Katchina completed its NEPA work and
was not appealed or litigated. Katchina is estimated to cost
$1,209,000 and a contract was awarded in August 2003. In FY2003
305 acres were thinned and 1,121 acres were prescribed burned
on all the stewardship projects.
Work has proceeded slowly due to complexities
with contracts, the timing of work, burning windows, coordination
with other agencies, and budgeting issues. NEPA work is completed
for Fort Valley, Airport, Arboretum, and Kachina. All of Fort
Valley Phase I has been contracted out and the contract lengths
are generally about three years in length so the USFS would
not expect all the thinning to be completed until then. The
subsequent activities (slash treatments and prescribed burning)
are interdependent. Most of the pile burning has been completed
on Phase I. Phase II layout and marking is scheduled to be
completed in 2004 with contract award scheduled for in 2005.
The NEPA for the Airport project is completed but implementation
is not scheduled because the area is now part of a land exchange
which needs to be completed prior to project implementation.
The need for implementation and type of work originally proposed
may need to be revisited depending on the outcome of the land
exchange process. The Kachina Village project is proceeding
although the operator was shut down during the winter of 2004
due to wet weather conditions, a standard mitigation measure
during the winter. Work is expected to resume around May 2004,
conditions permitting. The planning process for Mountainaire
is beginning. Because the planning team for this project consists
of many of the same members as those working on the Woody
Ridge Project, it will not get into full swing until Woody
Ridge Project is completed. The Decision Notice is expected
near the end of the March 2004.
The GFFP has been able to complete approximately
2,000 acres of work so far and the USFS estimates it will
take another 10 years to complete the rest of the work. The
Coconino NF has approximately $4,000,000 annually for fuels
reduction. Ideally the Coconino Forest would like to thin
10,000 acres per year, including the Partnership projects,
and this plan will require an additional $3,000,000 annually.
There have been some clashes between Partners
over the prescriptions used. According to USFS Stewardship
Staff Officer Rodger Zanotto, working out a common vision
has been challenging at times. "What it comes down to
is you have subcultures who are trained in forestry school
and have a definite vision on what that means, and then we
have an environmental community who has another vision. So
it's trying to find a way to weave those two things together".
Commercial removal on average costs about
$300 per acre. This means that under a service contract the
USFS pay a contractor$300 to do the 'services' which often
mean removing the trees, conducting the required slash and
road work as specified in the contract. Non-commercial thinning
costs $100-$140 per acre.
Arizona State Land Department
Arizona State Land Department, Fire Management Division
is small compared to other western state forestry departments.
The entire division has about 30 employees, of which half
are actual foresters, with the remainder working as support
staff. In the greater Flagstaff area, they manage 28,000 acres
of timber trust land primarily southwest of Flagstaff. This
land is intermixed with national forest. Fire Management Division
works cooperatively with the USFS due to the inter-jurisdictional
nature of their lands. They try to match prescriptions and
assist each other with archeological and wildlife surveys
when appropriate. In general prescriptions vary but they shoot
for 60 basal area and they try to protect specific species,
like yellow pine.
The Arizona State Land Department Fire Management
Division was managing its forested resources as a commercial
timber base, until the markets declined. The pulp market disappeared
in 1998 when the paper mill in Snowflake, AZ transitioned
to recycle material. The sawwood market declined around 2000.
The last timber sale was in August 1998. The State Land Trust
dictates that in order to spend money on land, the land must
generate revenue. Since the land was not generating money
through timber sales, no thinning or fuel treatments could
be planned. When the State Fire Assistance grants started
in 2001, the forestry department started receiving much needed
money for treatments.
The priority for hazardous fuel reduction
has been lands close to Flagstaff. In 2001 Arizona State Lands
received $33,684 from a State Fire Assistance grant for a
2,750 acre fuels treatment program in the Flagstaff WUI. In
2002 they received an $80,000 SFA for fuels reduction around
Flagstaff and received $105,000 of a shared SFA grant with
Prescott for $242,525 for treatment of WUI acres.
In 2003, Flagstaff AZ Fire Management Division received two
grants-one for $500,000 from the Arizona Department of Emergency
Services and another State Fire Assistance grant for $250,000.
The $500,000 grant is a 100% funded grant (no cost share)
and has been used to survey and mark roughly 990 acres of
state trust land for treatment. 500 of these acres are prepped
as a timber sale-all size classes and 490 acres are prepped
as a pre-commercial thinning (6-7"), which will be hand
thinned. The small diameter timber for the pre-commercial
acres will be piled and burned. The cost to treat these acres
is estimated at $700-1000 an acre for the timber sale, and
$400-500 an acre for the pre-commercial thinning. These 990
acres are inside or within ¼ mile of Mexican spotted
owl (MSO) protection zones. AZ Fire Management Division has
partnered with US Fish and Wildlife to treat this land. Under
this agreement, AZ Fire Management Division has been able
to operate without restrictions and treat more aggressively
and during the breeding season. Treatments in the MSO area
are generally less aggressive, more clumpy, an increased emphasis
in species diversity, uneven age and generally have size or
timing restrictions. This is a one of a kind, first in the
United States partnership and is being watch closely the Department
of Interior and other agencies. The $250,000 SFA grant is
funding a new hire to assist with WUI fuels reduction projects
and also funding the purchase of chippers and a dump truck
to remove slash from private property.
The Flagstaff State Land office could use
$1.5 million a year for fuels reduction. They expect to receive
$100,000-200,000 next year through another Arizona Department
of Emergency Services grant. With this money they will begin
thinning between 200-500 acres in FY2005, which is ready and
In 2001, 550 acres of state trust
land were thinned and 400 acres burned. In 2002, 380 acres
were thinned and 1040 acres burned. In 2003, 780 acres were
thinned and 690 acres burned.