Public safety agencies prepare for potential high-risk fire season in 2019

Christopher Lomahquahu
Gila River Indian News



As the Community and the rest of the Southwest gets ready for the summer months, public safety authorities stress the importance of fire prevention. The Gila River Fire Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs Fire Agency are on an initiative to prevent home and wild land fires. 


“We are coming together, because the rain [earlier] this year was tremendous and as a result the weeds are growing in abundance,” said Kathy Garcia Gila River Fire Department Deputy Chief Fire Marshal. 


She said the high temperatures can create a dry environment, which leads to large amounts of fuel to feed a fire. To get the Community prepared for a potential high-risk fire season, GRFD and BIA Tribal Response Team Fire recommend having yards clear of weeds, brush and other fuels to feed the blaze. 


“It’s not just homes as well, we have wildlife and native vegetation, that are back in dense areas of the Community, like District 6 and 7. Those could be wiped out by a fire and allow for invasive species to grow in their place,” said Kathleen Livingston BIA Fire Agency.  


She said it’s about protecting the cultural resources of the Community, which can be lost if a fire were to break out at a residence and spread to other areas.  


National fire safety campaigns like “Ready, Set, Go!” are being promoted throughout the country and in Arizona. The campaign is meant to educate the public about how to prevent homes from being in fire danger, be prepared in case a fire breaks out, be alert of warnings to evacuate in case an area is in imminent danger and life-threatening to residents.  


The word “Ready” means, residents should be aware of the fire hazards around by keeping a 30 to 100-foot defensible space around their home. 


Be “Alert,” means stay up to date with the latest information and have a plan to relocate to another area. “The biggest thing with previous years, we’ve had fire incidents, that had homes in their path, like the Ethan fire in 2008,” said Livingston. That fire ran along the riverbed and surrounding areas, close enough to endanger nearby residences.”


That is why it is important to keep a yard cleared of fuels, to make sure a home has a surviving chance in the event of a brush or wildfire. If a fire is too much and evacuation is necessary, the third tip is “Go,” which means individuals need to evacuate the area when they receive instruction from emergency response personnel and agencies. 


Garcia said, having a yard cleared of brush can keep a fire from coming to a house and causing extensive damage and displacing families. The important goal Garcia said is to prevent the loss of life, “For the elderly and disabled Community members, those who can’t get out quick enough, family members have to make sure there is a safe distance of brush cleared around their home.” 



The importance is informing Community members, that fire dangers can happen closer to homes, than people most think. “We encourage home owners, people that live down there to be proactive in caring for their homes’ surroundings,” said Steven Nasewytewa GRFD Fire Inspector.