Heber-Overgaard Fire Protection District
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
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
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
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
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