Monsoon season has reached Arizona and fire officials have worked tirelessly to reduce the wildland fire risks in North Scottsdale.
“Scottsdale has more critical wildfire risk due to the urban interface with much of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and other vegetation rich open space areas,” says Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon.
The fire department has taken a multi-pronged approach to the mitigation efforts including reducing fuels along identified roadways, deploying brush trucks in high risk areas, encouraging communities to become designated Firewise® USA, conducting inspections in construction areas, and encouraging wildfire readiness for homeowners.
Fuel Reduction along N. Scottsdale roadways: This year, Scottsdale received a grant to reduce fire/fuels in strategically targeted areas to reduce the threat of wildfires starting, and to provide defensible spaces that can slow the spread of a fire. Attention has been focused along roadway edges in and around the Preserve, School Trust Lands, and key alignments within the Preserve that function as fuel breaks to stop or slow the forward movement of potential wildfires.
Brush Truck Deployment: From May through September, the wildfire season watch is on and patrols to prevent them are in place. Scottsdale Fire Department has three brush trucks patrolling neighborhoods on the fringes of the desert throughout the city to help prevent or stop wildfires. Crews may also leave info on a front doorknob to remind residents to remove the brush during the dry season.
Firewise® USA Designated Communities: There are currently 14 completed, renewed, and/or recognized Firewise® USA Communities in Scottsdale. The national recognition program provides a collaborative framework to help neighbors in a geographic area get organized, find direction, and take action to increase the ignition resistance of their homes and community and to reduce wildfire risks at the local level. Any community that meets a set of voluntary criteria on an annual basis and retains an “In Good Standing Status” may identify itself as being a Firewise® Site.
Construction Inspections: Many brush fires start from sparks from chains, cutting, welding, and grinding metals, which are common on residential construction sites. With these types of activities regularly and are often adjacent to the Preserve, these quickly became the focus for targeted efforts by the Prevention Division in 2020 and continues today. The inspector and the General Contractor or job supervisor walk the site while using a wildfire safety checklist. If there are any deficiencies, remedies can be accomplished immediately in real time. Occupant contact information is gathered and a pass or fail results automatically when the inspection is over.
Wildfire Ready Homes: Residents are encouraged to assist the fire department by protecting their homes from fire taking proven risk reduction steps. These include creating a 30-foot defensible safety zone by removing dry and dead vegetation around the home, keeping a garden hose connected to exterior hose bibs available for use, and being aware of potential ignition sources like fireplaces, BBQ grills, improper disposal of smoking materials and fireworks.
In addition to these efforts, the wildland team participate in drills to combat any surge of a wildfire that could break out in desert areas such as the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, DC Ranch or Rio Verde. Scottsdale firefighters concluded wildfire training last week.
All residents should become aware of the “Ready, Set, Go” terminology for wildland fires and other emergencies, Chief Shannon stresses. “Being prepared and knowing what to do – especially when the ‘Go’ order is announced – is crucial,” he says. Details are at Ready Set Go.
More wildland safety tips are available. Scottsdale residents may schedule a free wildland safety inspection by submitting the request through ScottsdaleAZ.gov/EZ.