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

Heber-Overgaard Fire Protection District

H-O Fire Department sign Heber and Overgaard are both unincorporated areas. The fire department was established in 1973 and is funded through a district tax that levies 1.23 mils on property values. The Heber-Overgaard (H-O) Fire District has 12 full time and 30 part time firefighters and provides protection for more than 4,000 people over 102 square miles. All the firefighters are certified in wildland firefighting. Heber-Overgaard Fire Chief Jack Ingraham is new to the job and area. He took up the posting in January 2004. He is aware that H-O had received minimal funding through the National Fire Plan in the past. He plans to actively pursue new funding and has acquired more than $500,000 since his arrival. For instance, H-O just received a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for a new fire engine, as well as funding for cost-sharing to help homeowners to thin their property. As observed by Bruce Banke of Arizona State Lands the previous Fire Chief was not requesting funding. "[Ingraham] is a lot more proactive than the other chief was."

The H-O Fire Protection District is promoting Firewise programs in the schools and starting a National Safety Council fire prevention program that school children can take. A National Safety Week will take place in October 2004. According to Ingraham, "You get a lot better parent participation when you do it through the school. We're using different materials that we can send home with the kids to hopefully get he parents more involved." They will do a mass mailing out to all the businesses and targeted groups in the area the then make sure everything is delivered for the programs in the schools.

Wildfire Response in H-O

The Heber-Overgaard Fire Protection District has mutual aid agreements with the Northern Arizona Fire Departments for suppression needs. They have a contract with State Lands regarding suppression and have a verbal agreement with USFS for mutual aid. If a fire happens within a fire district and it gets beyond the scope of the fire department handling it, they will request assistance from their neighboring fire district, the State or the USFS. A mutual aid request from a neighboring fire district means the neighbor will come in on a gratis basis and offer help under a written agreement that stipulates 12 hours or 24 hours of assistance. If that becomes insufficient, the State is usually called in. If the State is called in they will provide whatever resources are necessary to fight the fire, and the State pays. There is a Joint Powers Operating Plan between the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and the State. This outlines mutual aid agreements and different agency responsibilities between the State and USFS.

Northern Arizona Fire Chief's Association

The Northern Arizona Fire Chiefs' Association meets monthly to discuss fire suppression efforts and hazardous fuel reduction activities. Suppression is coordinated through discussions between the fire chiefs and the USFS Fire Management Officers. They meet monthly in the winter and early spring at different fire departments. In the spring they have a coordination meeting to share information about resources and radio frequency changes.


Community Wildfire Protection Plan

In May 2004, the three counties of Apache, Coconino and Navajo completed a joint Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). The plan includes the towns of Aripine, Clay Springs, Forest Lakes, Heber-Overgaard, Hon Dah, Linden, McNary, Pinedale, Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low and Vernon. The plan was developed in response to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA), which stipulates that communities receiving money from HFRA must have engaged in a collaborative planning process. The plan helps "local government, fire districts and residents in the identification of lands at risk from severe wildfire threat and to identify strategies for reducing fuels on wildlands, while improving forest health, supporting coal industry and local economies, and improving fire-fighting response capabilities". H-O Fire Chief Ingraham participated in creating the CWPP. In H-O, the plan calls for a three mile buffer around USFS lands to the south and south west of the communities and a half mile buffer to the north, west and eastern parts of the communities. The CWPP prioritizes the treatment of 2,301 federal acres and estimates the treatment to cost $1,169,416. 7,949 nonfederal acres are targeted for treatment at an estimated cost of $5,732,280.

Arizona State Lands

AZ State  Lands SignBruce Banke, with the Arizona State Lands Fire Division, is based out of Flagstaff and mainly covers Apache and Navajo counties. His duties deal with fire suppression and training, and works in conjunction with the USFS and Bureau Indian Affairs (BIA) on the trainings. He holds 130 (Firefighter Training), 190 (Intro to Wildland Fire Behavior) and I100 (Incident Command System) trainings and refresher courses. Suppression efforts are coordinated multi-laterally via the Northern Arizona Fire Chiefs Association, which meets monthly. There is also a Wildland Division of the Chiefs Association that deals solely with wildland fire suppression and training issues.

Banke sees absentee landowners as the biggest problem. Reaching these people is very difficult. State Land's challenge is to educate the public on wildfire mitigation and hazardous fuel reduction. The State encourages the local fire department to approach and work with homeowner associations to educate homeowners in preventing/reducing loss from wildfire by creating defensible space. They also encouraged the communities to develop their wildfire mitigation plan to access more funding.

United States Forest Service

Mark Empey, USFS Fire Management Officer, is in charge of suppression on USFS lands. Empey helps coordinate some FIREWISE outreach with homeowner associations and fire departments.

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Copyright©2004 Toddi A. Steelman and North Carolina State University

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