New Signs Encourage Wildfire Vigilance

To assist in keeping our community safe from wildfires, 44 new Firewise Defensible Space signs have been installed in Prescott and the surrounding area by the Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC).

The artwork for the signs, created by Stephan Markov, owner of Morgan Sign Company in Prescott, depicts a house with defensible space, a means of keeping fire away from the structure, and lists the number of the local fire department

“PAWUIC and the City of Prescott are close partners in our joint efforts to keep communities free from wildfires,” said Prescott Fire Chief Dennis Light. “The Prescott area has 28 subdivisions and neighborhoods that have earned the Firewise designation, more than any other region of the country. The defensible space created will afford firefighters, should a fire occur, a reasonable chance for successful response.”

“As a community, we get lulled into complacency because of the interval between significant fires,” said Bob Betts, Chairman of PAWUIC. “Many years ago, wildfires were common in this area, and that’s what eliminated the underbrush. For much of the first half of the twentieth century, we suppressed wildfires, but without natural reduction of the undergrowth it got thicker, and the trees multiplied. Today we are kept safe, in partnership with the Prescott National Forest and the Arizona State Forestry Division with their thinning and logging programs.”

Twenty of the signs were installed in 2009, replacing the old signs that had become faded and illegible. All were made possible by the fundraising efforts of PAWUIC members, including member Everett Warnock who initiated the sign campaign. “After a distinguished Commission member, Gary Roysdon passed in 2014, we took up a collection in his honor and were able to purchase an additional 44 signs,” said Betts.

PAUWIC chose “wildland-urban interface” locations for the signs where structures are in close proximity to the forest, and surrounded by natural growth, including Ponderosa Pines and Alligator Juniper. “It’s a lovely setting,” said Betts, “but you have to realize there is always a danger being in an area that contains highly flammable vegetation.”

“We always want to be ahead of a fire, not following it,” added Betts. It’s important for Prescott residents to be reminded of the 2002 Indian Fire, where the last line of defense for fighting it was at Copper Basin Road. Had the temperature not dropped and wind decreased, things might have turned out very differently. We were also fortunate that air tankers and heavy- lift Sky Crane helicopters from the U.S. Forest Service happened to be at the Prescott National Forest Fire Center at the Prescott Airport, and were able to respond quickly.”

The location for the final installation of these new signs was chosen near Haisley Homestead (268 properties) along with Hidden Valley Ranch (755 properties), which occupy a nearly mile long buffer between the Prescott National Forest and the City of Prescott. The Prescott National (PNF) Forest has performed fuels mitigation and brush mastication along the border with these two communities. Haisley Homestead and Hidden Valley are certified Firewise Communities and along with the PNF provide a necessary fire break in the event of a wildfire approaching Prescott from the south.

To learn more about protecting your property from wildfire, visit the the Prescott Fire Department website