Wildfire. Like the word Hurricane in the Southeast, or Tornado warning in the Midwest, this is a word that puts fear, or at the very least concern in the hearts of us who live in the west. Our low humidity and extremely hot climate creates fuel for wildfires, and a wet spring only encourages growth of shrubs and native grasses. Once this fuel drys in the summer, a cigarette or a spark from a vehicle, gunfire or campfire can cause the desert to easily burst into flames.
In 1995, the desert adjacent to the Verdes caught fire, and the Verdes community was under high alert. This “Rio Fire” inspired the community to take action to protect and defend the Verdes from the possibility of a wildfire encroaching on the community. We were reminded again only this spring, when a fire was ignited just 3 miles north of Rio Verde on the east side of the Verde river.
Five years ago a group of concerned Rio Verde neighbors took action to protect our community. Rio and Tonto Verde are recognized as “Firewise” communities. This is a designation by the National Fire Protection Association, and allows the Verdes to receive federal grant monies and 501 (C) status to take action to protect the community by removing ladder fuels from our boundaries and common areas. Private contractors and volunteers have worked to clear dry native grass areas, and cut back shrubs and trees in the desert to make a defensible buffer around the community. To date the community has received over $120,000 in federal grant money along with donations from the community.
Keeping the buffer areas around the community clear is only one step in the process. Each individual home owner is encouraged to help by keeping their property Firewise safe by removing dead plants, branches and bushes in their yard. Landscape service receipts and homeowner “sweat equity” time can be reported to the HOA to help document their efforts and maintain the community Firewise designation.
We are also very fortunate to have the Rio Verde Fire District fire station here in the Verdes community as well. The community is well protected by the firefighters and volunteer firefighters here in the Verdes, and with response time so valuable in protecting our homes and desert, we can all rest a little easier.