Wittmann residents, firefighters discuss solutions

Wittmann residents met with Arizona Division of Forestry and Fire officials Wednesday evening.

Multiple agencies have fought 37 brush fires this spring in the area spanning from Interstate 10 to Congress to Black Canyon City, according to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM). Several of the blazes occurred south of Wickenburg in the Wittmann area, prompting officials to meet with the community there Wednesday evening.

DFFM Fire Management Officer John Truett told the residents most fires have been found to be human caused from activities such as welding, burning of debris, barbecue grills and vehicles dragging chains. Because last winter brought an abundance of moisture, the desert floor is covered with a heavy load of grasses which provides a continuous fuel bed between trees and brush, he said. With the summer months arriving, the fuels will super heat, encouraging any spark to cause a fire.

“It’s important we have your help. Keep an eye out and be careful,” he said.

Truett reminded residents of the Firewise checklist for ensuring their homes are better protected from wildfire. Clearing vegetation zones around the perimeter of private property  and homes, having an evacuation plan, and keeping an eye out for smoke, were among his suggestions.

Open burning is never permitted in Maricopa County, he noted, so if a neighbor is burning a trash barrel or a pile of debris, it should be reported by calling 911.

According to DFFM Public Affairs Officer Tiffany Davila, as a result of the meeting, the Division will be working on setting up some information tables at highly visible locations, so residents can collect and share information with fire officials.

The Division will also discuss putting more State engines on patrol in the area on the weekends. Davila said, the a recent engine patrol extinguished a small brush fire because it was nearby.

 Davila is planning to meet with some community members to discuss improved information sharing and notification systems in times of fires as well as prevention messaging. She also anticipates another meeting in the area in the near future.

“Good information was shared by everyone Wednesday and our agency received a lot of valuable feedback from those who attended. Now we will sit down and work on establishing ways to most efficiently engage with the residents, and not just during times of high fire activity, but all year round. We want to be proactive, we want to ensure multiple communication channels are being established in the event of a wildfire emergency. We want to have active conversations, and we want to provide an increased presence in the area through engine crew pre-positioning and crew patrols.

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