Editorial: It takes a village to fight a fire

Hotshot crews, attack crews, airplanes, tankers, fire engines, helicopters, bulldozers, power company reps, police officers, support staff, volunteers.

Within a short amount of time after the first call of a wildland fire in Yarnell this week, the town filled up with all the above.

Dwight D’Evelyn, media relations coordinator with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, praised the work of fire crews, deputies, Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers and other volunteer groups, and said they all appreciated people’s patience during the incident.

“As many know and witnessed, fire crews and aircraft support did an amazing job the first fire day to protect the town of Yarnell. Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office thanks all those who cooperated in a very hasty evacuation as deputies went door to door making contact with residents,” he said.

As we also reported, Yavapai County Development Services Director Steven Mauk said driving up to Yarnell Friday was “like déjà vu.”

“I drove in here and my heart started racing. I had staff, when they heard the news, started crying,” he said, referencing the devastating Yarnell Hill Fire three years ago that burned homes and took the lives of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters. “This time, everyone was so much more prepared.”

He said the county worked with property owners on the wildland/urban interface since then, and also fielded calls from concerned residents about neighbors’ weedy yards.

Firefighters back-burned uphill from homes to the ridge, which previously had been cleared of underbrush. A fuel break was created between the town and state and BLM land which effectively stopped the fire’s advance.

No wildland fire is ever taken for granted around here, but the residents of Yarnell know firsthand what is at stake and they were ready. They had homes to return to. Defensible space was used. They followed evacuation orders swiftly.

Here in Prescott, a quick look over the local social media sites showed the efforts being put together by businesses and residents to donate or help out.

Kudos to the Red Cross and all the volunteers who were waiting to help evacuees and their pets at Yavapai College and the Rodeo grounds.

There’s still a lot of work to do on this fire, but as the immediate danger recedes and folks are allowed back home, let’s give everyone a hand for a job well done.