With a cloud of smoke hanging over Fountain Hills Sunday morning several residents were prompted to call town officials and the fire department with concerns for safety.
Over the weekend the Woodbury Fire surpassed the 100,000 acre milestone and is still just 40 percent contained. That fire is about 25 to 30 miles due east of Fountain Hills and burning in the other direction.
Smaller fires to the north of town also cropped up over the weekend, the largest being the Badger Springs Fire east of the Sunset Point rest area along I-17. The fire burned about 2,500 acres. The Slate Fire burned about 250 acres southeast of Payson and had the Beeline Highway closed for a time. About noon on Friday local firefighters from Fountain Hills and Fort McDowell, along with Tonto National Forest, quickly extinguished a five-acre fire in the highway median just east of Fort McDowell.
“The recent fires in the area around us have prompted a lot of questions and concerns from our residents,” Fire Chief Dave Ott said. “Although none of the fires have been a threat to the town, it is a good time to look at our own homes and surroundings.
“Homeowners can and must take primary responsibility for fire safety action around their home. Homeowners need to create defensible space by clearing brush away from their home.”
Steps should be taken to prune low-hanging branches to reduce ladder fuels that would allow flash material such as dry grasses to climb into medium-sized fuels.
Gutters, roofs, patios and porches should be free of debris. Flammable plants and mulches should be kept a minimum of five feet away from the home’s perimeter. Wood piles should also be moved away from the home’s exterior.
Doormats and furniture cushions should be brought inside when a wildfire threatens an area. It is a good idea to keep landscaping well irrigated within a 30-foot perimeter of the home. Thinning vegetation on your own property in the 30- to 100-foot radius of the home is also advised.
“This is a good time to make sure everyone is signed up on the CodeRed Alert system,” Ott said. “Sign up is available on the Town’s website at fh.az.gov.
“This is the platform that we would use to notify residents of emergencies that would require action, whether that would be an evacuation or shelter in place.”
Mayor Ginny Dickey said several residents also raised concerns with her this past week.
“There have been lots of good questions and interest from residents not only about the Woodbury fire, but in general about steps we can take locally and on our own property to mitigate the chances of fires happening in our community,” Dickey said.
“Chief Ott and Assistant Chief Jason Payne provided information to ease the fear about new fires or the current blaze spreading to Fountain Hills.
“As our emergency responders, they are also serving people who might be affected by the smoky air,” Dickey said. “As I mentioned to a friend, it’s unfortunate that lovely, rainy springs can carry an increased fire risk as the summer heats up.”