Originally Published: June 29, 2018 6 a.m.
Last week our column discussed defensible space and stressed that protecting your home from wildfire starts with you. Since wildfire is a real and an ever present danger, it is important for our readers to know about Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC).
PAWUIC is the only commission of its kind in the country that brings together firefighting professionals, Arizona Public Service, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, BIA, BLM, Prescott National Forest, Yavapai County Emergency Management Services, and homeowners associations to work together in the prevention of wildfires.
A fire on Thumb Butte in 1983 was the catalyst for the effort that began the development of a plan to improve communication and to begin the standardization of equipment among area firefighting agencies. Firefighters were dispatched from Prescott, Central Yavapai Fire District and the Prescott National Forest. During this fire they were not able to work together efficiently because the fittings on their fire hoses were not compatible with one another, so these firefighting units had to operate separately, rather than as one. Thus, began the process for standardizing equipment to achieve compatibility.
In 1989, Ed Hollenshead originated the idea that eventually resulted in the formation of PAWUIC. PAWUIC was officially formed on Sept. 7, 1990, and is a chartered group of citizens and agency representatives given the expressed task of identifying, prioritizing and guiding the management of wildland/urban interface issues in the Prescott area.
Prescott holds the unique distinction of having the first certified Firewise Community/USA back in 2002; Timber Ridge. PAWUIC and the work that has been done in Prescott is often regarded nationally as a phenomenon for a relatively small community. Prescott and Yavapai County are home to at least 37 Firewise communities that have all obtained assistance through PAWUIC to receive National Firewise recognition.
We are extremely fortunate to have PAWUIC and their dedicated group of individuals in our community. PAWUIC works on the challenges of urban growth in the interface between the wildlands and private property. PAWUIC members know that remembering those initials and what they stand for can take some time, so they have given their website another name; yavapaifirewise.org. You can reach this marvelous community group through yavapaifirewise.org, which will connect you to a website full of important information on wildland education and will show you how PAWUIC is working throughout your community to reduce the risk of wildfire through education resources and grant opportunities.
It is important to know that Firewise communities are eligible to apply for a one time federal grant through PAWUIC to help with the costs of vegetation mitigation. Once an area has been treated, it is far less expensive and much easier for neighborhoods and individuals to maintain.
Remember, wildfire is a real and an ever-present danger no matter how hard we all work to contain the vegetation that surrounds us. When hazardous fuels are managed, the possibility of a wildfire disaster is drastically reduced. Whether a wildfire starts with a lightning strike or is human caused, fuels management is the key to safety.
On the first Thursday of every month (with the exception of January and July) PAWUIC holds its monthly meeting, which is open to the public. This meeting brings together local, state and federal agencies along with homeowners associations and Firewise communities to discuss important issues and progress in the collective concern to keep Prescott and the surrounding communities safe from the ravages of wildfire. For answers to your questions and to get involved, call 928-277-8032. PAWUIC would be honored to assist anyone interested in becoming a Firewise community, and they can provide education regarding the important endeavor of Firewise hazard mitigation.
What is hazard mitigation? Any action taken to reduce the long-term risk to human life and property from natural and man-made hazards.
What is survivable space? The modification of landscape design, fuels and building materials that make a home ignition caused by wildfire less likely even without direct firefighter intervention.
Remember, “always” is the time to be Firewise. Prepare, protect and preserve. Protecting your home from wildfires starts with you. Our area is extremely fortunate to have PAWUIC and the acclaimed national recognition of this invaluable resource.
All fire departments and mitigation specialists — several which are Yavapai County Contractors Association members — that have taken the assessors course in defensible space creation — can inspect your property and home and provide you with a complimentary plan addressing hazard mitigation and assist in the planning process to make your home and property fire wise. Prepare, protect and preserve. It is important to remember that in a wildfire if firefighters determine that your home is not defensible they may, in the interest of their safety, not attempt to save it.
The leadership of PAWUIC feels very strongly that their organization is of the utmost importance to the future of Prescott, and their members have donated many thousands of hours of volunteer time to make the mission of PAWUIC successful. Our wonderful city has been awarded numerous endorsements in many Firewise and preservation practices and systems in place over the years, thanks to PAWUIC and its members. A catastrophic fire would certainly change all of that — possibly forever.
Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning at 7 on KQNA 1130 AM, 99.9 FM, 95.5 FM or on the web at kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry, meet your local community partners and much more. What a great way to start your weekend!