SFD working to get ahead of wildfire season

Coordinator, targeted efforts keys to prevention, awareness

The experience of the hot, dry summer of 2020 is expected to trouble Scottsdale and its neighbors again this year, according to fire officials. 

Scottsdale, more than any other valley city, has more critical wildfire risk, due to the urban interface with much of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and other vegetation rich open space areas. Last year, the city saw a 30 percent increase in vegetation fires in the typical brush fire season -- May through August. 

“The significance of this cannot be lost on our community,” said Scottsdale Fire Chief Tom Shannon. “We have to do everything we can to minimize the risks of repeating last year’s fire season.”

To this end, the Scottsdale has added a Community Wildfire Mitigation Coordinator to the prevention effort.  Dave Ramirez, a former Division Chief for the Tonto National Forest, is helping to develop a Community Fire Plan for the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  He is also tasked with assisting with necessary wildland training for City Leadership, Department Leadership, and fire resources throughout the city.  Additionally, he is working with community partners to develop plans to mitigate hazardous fuels within Scottsdale.  

Ramirez was selected for the position because of his extensive experience in fire mitigation. He retired from the Forest Service in November after a 30-year career.  As the South Zone Division Chief for Tonto, Ramirez had suppression responsibility for roughly 1 million acres on the Cave Creek and Mesa Ranger Districts.  The South Zone job was one of the busiest and most complex programs in the country.  During his tenure, he worked closely with most of the fire departments in the Greater Phoenix Area.  Ramirez also worked on Incident Management Teams in the Southwest Region and was the Incident Commander for the Central West Zone Type 3 Incident Management Team. 

“As a federal partner, I always admired the professionalism and dedication displayed by City of Scottsdale employees,” said Ramirez.  “I am proud to be a part of this organization and look forward to working more closely with members to protect the city and its residents.”

This addition complements the already existing efforts provided by Scottsdale Fire, including Firewise communities, construction site fire assessments, and other community outreach programs.

“Working together with residents and partners will be key to surviving the fire season,” said Shannon.  

Residents can assist the fire department to protect property from a wildland fire by taking the following steps: 

  • Create a 30-foot defensible safety zone around individual homes and properties by removing flash fuels, thinning overgrown vegetation in these defensible space areas, and removing dry and dead vegetation around the home.
  • Manage the vegetation fuel load by initially focusing on and removing invasive plants, especially around permanent residential structures.
  • Trim the lower branches on trees, up to 4ft to 6ft from the desert floor and remove overgrown branches from the roof and patio areas of the home.
  • Address and remove the accumulation of dead branches or leaves, especially near structures. 
  • Do not keep flammable items or allow excessive foliage to collect underneath wooden decks and other combustible overhangs.
  • Keep eaves, gutters, and roofs clear of leaves and combustible debris.
  • Keep a garden hose connected to exterior hose bibs and available for use.
  • Be keenly aware of potential ignition sources like fireplaces, BBQ grills, improper disposal of smoking materials and fireworks.
  • If you believe you see a wildfire incident, call 911 immediately while the fire is still small and before you take action yourself. 

Get more wildland safety tips at the Scottsdale Fire Department here. If you are a Scottsdale resident, you can schedule a free wildland safety inspection by submitting the request through ScottsdaleAZ.gov/EZ.  

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