Improve Fire Prevention and Suppression Reduce Hazardous FuelsRestore Fire Adapted Ecosystems Promote Community AssistanceSummary



Heber-Overgaard (H-O) is situated in northeast Arizona in the midst of Navajo County at approximately 6,500 feet altitude. The vegetation surrounding H-O is made up of thick stands of untreated, small-diameter ponderosa pine on private and federal lands. Within H-O some 10,251 acres of private and federal land have been identified as at high risk for wildfire. June 18th 2002 was the start of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which destroyed 268 structures in H-O (mainly in Overgaard) and burned some 460,000 acres. It was the largest fire in Arizona history. Overgaard was evacuated for nearly two weeks while the fire was fought. This fire has significantly raised awareness in the area. H-O had not been very active in pursuing or receiving National Fire Plan money to address its very real threats. However this appears to be changing with the arrival of a new fire chief.

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. Heber and Overgaard are both unincorporated areas. The 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. 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. In May 2004, the three counties of Apache, Coconino and Navajo completed a joint Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).

In 2003, the H-O Fire District received $250,000 from Arizona State Lands for cost-sharing to thin private lands. The program is a 50-50 cost share that requires three bids from contractors and will reimburse 50% of the lowest bid up to $2000 (Ingraham 2004). The cost-share program has been very popular and demand has outstripped the supply of funding. Four major efforts are underway in the USFS Black Mesa Ranger District to address the threat in the vicinity surrounding Heber-Overgaard. These include Brookbank Ecosystem Management Assessment, Heber/Overgaard Ecosystem Management Assessment, Hilltop and the Rodeo-Chedeski long term rehabilitation and fuels program. The Mogollon Estates Homeowners Association has been very active in requiring thinning on property in the neighborhood. They are doing education and outreach through their annual meeting notices and their quarterly newsletters. There are several contractors in the area, but no utilizers of small diameter timber.

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

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