Officials preparing for worst this fire season

By Curtis Riggs | March 18, 2009

Winter rains bring fire fuels

DESERT FOOTHILLS – Many local homeowners have already cleared 30-foot defensible spaces around their homes in anticipation of a nasty fire season.

Rural Metro Battalion Chief John Kraetz explains creating a defensible space entails removing combustible weeds and other vegetation. Woods piles and other dry materials should also be removed.

Kraetz is more concerned about a bad fire season this year because significant winter rains brought on a proliferation of wild flowers and weeds. When this vegetation dies as it heats up it provides abundant fuel for fires.

fire season“Every year we think we are going to have a bad year so we plan for the worst,” he said. “When this dries out there will be significant fuels out there.”

Cave Creek and Carefree firefighters are particularly worried about ladder fuels, trees and shrubs, which could burn and help a fire grow if burning weeds reach them.

“If a brush fire gets into a wood pile it will provide a lot of fuel to extend a fire,” he said.
He asks people to use common sense in the placement of charcoal and other barbecue grills near the home.

He cautions people welding or performing other tasks, which could cause a spark, to have a hose with a sprinkler head on it nearby when working.

He stresses firefighters need the help of the community in preventing a fire, which could cause loss of life or significant property damage. People can call the fires stations in Cave Creek: 480-595-2758 or Carefree: 480-488-0347 to schedule a home safety survey.

Firefighters will come out and advise people on how best to protect their home and property.

“We were lucky in the Cave Creek Complex Fire,” he said about the 2005 blaze, which burned nearly 450,000 acres of nearby forests. “We were lucky the winds and terrain kept it out of Cave Creek and Carefree.”

Photo: Tall weeds, which came with the significant winter rains, makes fire officials worry about a bad fire season.
Photo by Curtis Riggs