Editorial: Wildfire risks, responsibility remain despite changes
Originally Published: June 15, 2015 6:01 a.m.
When we hear that the City of Prescott and its fire department have changed the way they handle the threat of wildfires, it naturally raises concerns.Change is not easy.In Sunday's edition of the Courier, we highlighted questions on the part of the chairman of the Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission, and published comments from Prescott Fire Chief Dennis Light, who spoke publicly about the ongoing changes last week.A few catchphrases: Fuel reduction. That means create defensible space. It should always be ongoing. Contracted out, equates to non-city employees doing the work; as opposed to city employees like what we had in the Granite Mountain Hotshots - a crew that is not being reconstituted in the wake of the 19 deaths in the Yarnell Hill fire. Re-purposing the city's wildland division means it gets a new name: community risk reduction division. We learn from Robert Betts, chairman of PAWUIC, the city doesn't give "any meat" in its responses. That sounds like the bottom line of things will get done, they will only be different. He is not convinced, but "what we'll agree to in concept is to work together," he said.We pray that is correct and that it works.As a community we have witnessed death and destruction. In 2013 - nearly two years ago now - the Hotshots crew was decimated and, in 2002, the Indian fire destroyed five homes in the area off White Spar Road and threatened nearly 2,000 others. That does not include close calls, such as the 2013 Doce fire. It has happened, and it has happened here.And, we learned after the Yarnell Hill fire the brush in that area was so thick one could not get through it in many places; it also was tinder dry and ripe for fire. All it needed was a spark. Look around - places here exist that still are like that, and monsoons - accompanied by lightning - are just around the corner.Change is never easy.The city has its issues with the Hotshots crew, employment and benefits concerns therein, and other anecdotal and personnel problems. Put all of that aside and we still have to defend against the threat of fire. Plain and simple.The city leadership must make sure these contracts are adhered to and properly executed. Otherwise, the conclusion is on their shoulders and still on our backs.- Tim Wiederaenders, city editorFollow Tim Wiederaenders on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2032, firstname.lastname@example.org or 928-420-6472.