On Wednesday May 9, 2018, at approximately 7:30AM, the Prescott Regional Communications Center received a 911 call reporting a grass fire in the area of Highway 89 and the Granite Dells. Two Fire Engines, a Patrol, and a Battalion Chief responded due to the high fire danger we are experiencing. Upon arrival, the first responding crew found 4 small fires on the east side of the highway, spread out over approximately 150 yards. While the first fires were being extinguished, additional 911 calls were received reporting multiple fires in the area of Highway 89 and the Antelope Hills Golf Course. Two additional Fire Engines, on from Chino Valley, as well as another Patrol and Chief Officer were dispatched where they found an additional 7 small fires burning along the east edge of the highway. Law enforcement was requested to drive the highway between Prescott and Chino Valley to check for possible additional fires but none were found.
Most of the fires were small, with the largest being about 50’X10’. All were extinguished and had a dirt line constructed around them.
It appears that the fires were started by a vehicle, traveling from Prescott towards Chino Valley, most likely dragging a trailer chain, and causing sparks that ignited all the fires. This determination comes from the fact that there were so many fires, no one saw anyone stopped on the side of the road or throwing anything out of a moving vehicle, and all the starts were where grass was close to the side of the road.
It should not be a surprise to anyone in the area that we are in a very high fire danger situation right now. Our indices for large fire potential are all approaching record levels. Since we cannot change the weather, our only option is to change our behaviors in ways that stand a chance of reducing the possibility of having a fire start.
We are already in Stage II Fire Restrictions in the area. Small amounts of moisture that we received recently, and may get into the near future, will not take us out of the fire danger possibilities that exist because they will not increase the fuel moisture of the brush and trees. Small amounts of precipitation cause grasses to grow, that then dry out, giving more potential easily ignited fuel to a fire that can move rapidly and dangerously.
Residents should take note that these fires are an indication that grasses are ready to burn in Prescott area and should take precautions with open fires, trailer chains that are too long and drag the ground, lawnmowers and weed trimmers that have steel blades and create sparks when they contact rocks, vehicle exhaust systems that can come in contact with grasses when they are driven over tall grass, and underinflated tires that can fail and cause sparks when the steel vehicle rim comes in contact with the pavement. Additionally chainsaws that can hit nails and rocks when being used, discarding smoking materials in a reckless manner, and performing work outside that includes grinding and welding all require us to be more cautious.
Some of these items are covered in the Stage II Fire Restrictions. Grinding and welding can be performed after receiving a Special Use Permit from either Prescott Fire or Central Arizona Fire and Medical for people living in those jurisdictions. Chainsaws can be used as long as they are equipped with a spark arrestor and have someone standing by with water or a fire extinguisher. Lastly, smoking outside of buildings or vehicles is prohibited under Stage II restrictions. Local law enforcement has the ability to ticket persons found smoking outside.
We are all in this together until we get our much needed monsoonal weather. Please take care with actions that could cause damage or injury to you our your neighbors.