On Tuesday May 23, 2017, at approximately 12:23PM, the Prescott Regional Communications Center received multiple 911 calls reporting a grass fire in the area of Monument Park, an area just west of South Montezuma Street in the 300 block, across from the Depot Market Place shopping center. Two Engines, a Patrol, and a Battalion Chief responded. Because of the size of the smoke column, additional mutual aid units were requested from the Prescott National Forest, as well as the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
On arrival, emergency units found a slow moving fire in the tall grasses and Cottonwood litter along Granite Creek. This area experiences multiple fires each season due to heavy foot traffic, an abundance of wildland fuels, and unfortunately some are human caused.
Smoke from the fire decreased visibility in the area to the point that fire managers called for the street to be closed between Sheldon Street and Navajo to protect the motoring public as well as firefighters working off of the road to extinguish the fire.
Due to the number of past fires, and the fire loading in the area, a plan was derived to allow the fire to burn through the vegetation to decrease the fuel load. There were no structures threatened and the creek bed formed a natural barrier that allowed the fire to consume dead and down fuel before being managed actively at creek side. While this is not a method often used in the city limits, conditions leant themselves to allowing this activity to take place with the hope of decreasing the number of fires and fire intensity in the area in the future.
“Crew 2”, a Prescott National Forest Fuels Management crew that also has the ability to fight fires, along with a wildland engine from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, as well as the Black Mountain Hot Shot Crew, currently staged in Prescott, were all on scene with the PFD. In total, approximately 30 personnel were used to manage and extinguish this fire. The Prescott Police Department began opening the road to traffic a little after 1PM, first northbound, and later southbound, as the smoke dissipated and fire personnel began clearing the area.
We are seeing an increase in wildland fires in the state and local area. Temperatures are increasing and the humidity is decreasing. These two components work to decrease fuel moistures making them more prone to burning and more easily ignited. This is also the average time of year that the area goes into burn restrictions due to decreased precipitation and hotter and drier days. Residents are reminded to check local websites such as www.regionalinfo-alert.org to check on burn restrictions and fire activity in the area.
Remember, the only safe fire is the one that never started.