Editorial: Prescribed burns keep cities safe
We got two pieces of good news from the Prescott National Forest late last week: 1.) crews took a break from prescribed burns until Monday, and 2.) crews returned to prescribed burns on Monday.
That means local residents got a break from the inconvenient smoke that wafts over the city after the fall burning program got under way this week. During the burns, lungs will take a pounding for some, allergies for others. The smell of smoke will linger, putting the kibosh on recreational walks for some residents.
There's nothing fun about prescribed burns. And if you think it's bad walking and driving around in it, try working directly in it.
They're also necessary. The need for manageable wildland trumps the disruption of unmanageable smoke any day of the week. The alternative's potential danger is a reality we don't want. And the burns work.
Prior to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act becoming law in 2003, forest fires in the Southwest reached catastrophic proportions. The year prior, the U.S. fire season destroyed more than 800 structures and took the lives of 23 firefighters in a year Arizona was one of four states to register its worst fire in modern history.
Evidence of the aggressive treatments the act enabled has been immediate and significant. A constant reduction in hazardous fuels saved, according to one Forest Service estimate, 40 to 50 homes in the Horse Thief Basin in July 2006. The Indian Fire of 2002 blackened about 1,300 acres and destroyed or damaged six homes on the southern edge of Prescott. Today, crews have commercially harvested and thinned that area near Groom Creek through controlled burns, putting homes - and lives - in safer standing should disaster strike, be it nature or human caused.
So the burns, despite the smoke that clogs Prescott's late-summer skies, are both necessary and beneficial. Officials even said Thursday that residents would get a break. After burning nearly 250 acres at Bean Peaks on Wednesday, the current burns ceased until Monday.
Thanks, PNF crews, for giving our air the weekend off. And thanks also for continuing the preventive safety measures this week.