Cave Creek Complex Fire –After

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June 2005 saw the third biggest wildfire in the history of Arizona burn nearly 250,000 acres in the northeast portion of the Valley according to an official report from the Cave Creek Ranger Station.

Based on a visit to the area of the Tonto National Forest that was scorched by the Cave Creek Complex fire, it's obvious that the area itself hasn't fully recovered yet, as some of the ground is still barren and the trees aren't yet fully grown; however, the largest and most lasting effects of the Valley's largest fire have nothing to do with the area that burned.

Cave Creek's town marshal, Adam Stein, said that while the town was never threatened by the fire, the enormous blaze left its mark on the community in the form of raised awareness. "We increased our emergency awareness," said Stein. "We implemented CodeRed and we strengthened our Wildfire Response Plan."

CodeRed is an emergency alert system that notifies every phone number in its database via call or text when an event occurs. CodeRed's database keeps track of addresses as well, allowing Cave Creek officials to only send alerts to citizens within a certain radius of the emergency event's location.

Cave Creek wasn't alone in creating new plans, the Maricopa County Emergency Management Department created the brand new wildfire plan that Stein mentioned. The Maricopa County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (MCCWPP) has led to several Valley towns creating plans of their own as a reaction to the Cave Creek Complex fire.

Pete Weaver, the director of the Maricopa County Emergency Management Department, is one of the plan's creators. "The plan is one of the largest participatory wildfire plans in the west," said Weaver, "It actually won an environmental award."

The Valley Forward Association awarded Maricopa County the 2011 Environmental Excellence Award of Merit for the plan, which is the state's most prestigious environmental award, according to the Valley Forward Association's website.

While the MCCWPP is supposed to be used only as a framework for the fire departments of local communities to add their own touches to, many towns are using it without any modifications.

One of the most important aspects of the wildfire plan involve removing or reducing as much of the fuel for the wildfires as possible, particularly during fire season. These fuels mainly consist of dry or dead plants and trees, but can also include debris and trash left by campers or hikers in the area.

The plan also aids communities by identifying which areas are at the highest risk for wildfires and providing informational pamphlets about wildfire danger, according to the booklet used to teach each town's fire department about the plan.

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