Chino Valley and Paulden homeowners know that a fast-moving wildland grass fire could destroy their homes as easily as a forest fire.
The Chino grass – a beautiful blond color when dry – covers the rolling hills surrounding the two communities and burns quickly when ignited.
It’s the job of Wildland Fire Coordinator Ben Roche of the Chino Valley Fire District (CVFD) to provide wildland fire prevention and safety information, and he says the community faces a high fire danger from dry grass and other fuels.
“Out here, grass burns fast and it will catch a house on fire,” Roche said.
In addition, CVFD’s Fire Marshal Andie Smith said that hills covered with chaparral, thick native shrubs, also are as dangerous a wildfire fuel as forests during a fire, such as those in Yavapai County’s Doce Fire and the Yarnell Hill Fire, both in 2013.
According to Arizona Firewise, “Structures also become a potential source of fuel when they are in the vicinity of a wildfire.” Homes that are most in danger of catching fire are those with heavy vegetation near the home, along with debris, woodpiles and other burnable materials.
Chino Fire has recently partnered with Firewise and the Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC) to encourage residents in their fire district to become proactive and take the steps needed to protect their properties. Roche and Smith lead the efforts in Chino and Paulden.
Roche emphasizes that a home with defensible space, or survivable space, surrounding it is the home that survives in a wildfire.
Survivable space is the “modification of landscape design, fuels and building materials that make a home ignition caused by wildfire unlikely, even without direct firefighter intervention.” Keeping the area clear helps decrease the intensity of wildfires that are approaching a house.
“Fire spreads from tree to tree, bush to bush, and shrub to shrub,” Roche said. “Instead of a wall of flames, (keeping areas clear) lowers the intensity as it approaches the house.”
People also should be aware of other things that spark fires, such as rocks thrown from a mower or a weed-eater, parking a vehicle with a hot engine on dry vegetation, a vehicle with a malfunctioning catalytic converter and even throwing out a cigarette butt.
“People need to be mindful of all possibilities of what can start wildfires,” he said.