Sierra Vista, AZ. 09/28/16. In a joint effort, the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management and the City of Sierra Vista are launching a fuels reduction project and pedestrian safety project on state trust lands within the city limits.
The project will entail clearing brush, limbs, small trees, and grasses near the exterior of the areas, along with reducing the quantity and density of the same materials within the interior of the areas. The crews will use a skid steer machine, with an attachment called a masticator, which chips up materials small enough to become compost. Larger debris will be cleared by hand.
“History and science tells us that fire is part of this area’s natural regime to clean and regenerate; however, with the increase of non-native vegetation, a pattern of drought, and increase of development, our goal is to reduce fuels that carry fire and to decrease potential for high fire intensity. That way firefighters are able to work more effectively and safely, when fire is in the area. We are also taking the opportunity to improve safety for pedestrians walking along the state lands area,” says Mayra Moreno, fuels and fire prevention officer for the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management. With increased visibility, pedestrians passing along the perimeter, and recreationists on the state lands, will have a safer experience thanks to the ability to see wildlife and avoid potentially dangerous animals that make the land their home.
The long-time buildup of wildfire fuels, such as small trees, brush, grasses, and debris, along with dry weather patterns and human activity on and nearby the project areas, have increased the potential for wildfire.
The State Legislature authorized the removal of hazardous wildland fuels throughout the state. Specifically, state lands in Sierra Vista were selected because the lands are in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) which is where the wildfire potential lands mix with urban communities. Such as in this case, the lands are surrounded by developments with nearby housing and recreation areas.
“The cleanup project is a great fire prevention activity for Sierra Vista. Not only will the project reduce the potential for a Monument Fire-like event on vacant lands in the city limits, it also will create safer routes for pedestrians and children on their way to and from school,” says Chief Ron York, Sierra Vista Fire & Medical Services. “Arizona Forestry crews will begin work in October, and that’s a great way to kick off Fire Prevention Month. As fall begins to dry out our summer growth, we encourage our residents to ensure that their properties are fire safe, too, by removing brush and dry fuels that have accumulated near their homes. This is also a great time to change batteries or replace your 10-year-old smoke alarms.”
The crews will begin reducing fuels on the first week of October 2016, weather permitting. Depending on the number of crews that can be committed to the project, the work may continue for several weeks.
Once completed, the state lands near the Cyr Center ball fields, Highway 90 Bypass, and along Avenida Escuela (behind Wal-Mart) will offer more open areas for recreational use, dotted with a mosaic of larger trees and brush for aesthetics and wildlife habitat.
Over the last several weeks, the Sierra Vista Police Department has made several passes through the areas to ensure that homeless persons were given the opportunity to relocate or receive resources needed to find indoor shelter. In addition, the City’s Public Works department will place some roll-off dumpsters for the collection of garbage found during the cleanup project.
For more information on reducing fuels to protect your land and homes, please visit www.firewise.org.