Prepare for wildfires before it's too late in southern Arizona

Prepare for wildfires before it's too late in southern Arizona
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Most firefighters will tell you that there is no such thing as a fire season anymore because of dry conditions in Arizona year round, but Southwest Wildfire Awareness Week is an effort to educate folks before the potential for large, destructive fires heats up.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey proclaimed March 25 - 31 as Arizona Wildfire Prevention Week. The state's Department of Forestry and Fire Management produced radio PSAs and billboards around Arizona and the Department of Transportation is including messages about prevention in its electronic signs along interstates.

Fire departments around southern Arizona are educating the communities they serve. In Sahuarita, Rural/Metro Fire Department Battalion Chief John Walka said a recurring concern from HOAs is the deadly wildfires in California.

Though no local fires have reached anywhere near that size so far this year, Rural/Metro crews have been running calls for wild fires all winter, according to Task Force Leader Cliff Maloy.

"We are definitely gearing up and getting ready, you know, for an active fire season," he said.

All Rural/Metro crews are certified to handle wildfires, but Malloy is one of more than a dozen firefighters to specialize in them. The department stations a truck specially designed for wildland fire calls in the areas where they're most needed in Pima County: Tucson foothills in the north and Sahuarita in the south.

He said responding to wildfire calls is different than a structure fire. Maloy said it's better sometimes to let wildfires burn in a controlled environment rather than take any risks by extinguishing the flames.

"For a lot of the vegetation, that's mother nature's way of clean," he said.

Homeowners have a hand in their own protection as well. Maloy said keeping yards clean and free of unruly brush and grass is a major advantage, not only for the homeowner, but for responding firefighters as well.

The U.S. Forest Service breaks down the distances here (https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5339207.pdf).

The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management provides firewise info here (https://dffm.az.gov/fire/prevention/firewise).

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