Carefree Vice Mayor John Crane Writes… JULY 2019

Desert Wildfires

While we may have had the most pleasant May on record, the exceptional winter and spring rains, combined with the unusually long, cool growing season have set the stage for an exceptionally scary fire season.

Compounding the situation, the invasive Globe Chamomile has sprung up everywhere.  The seas of dry yellow flowers are fuel for wildfires. The 7,500-acre Mountain Fire northeast of Carefree on the Tonto National Forest serves as a reminder of the danger that lies ahead and the necessity of taking the proper steps to protect your home and property.  As homeowners, what can you do?

Our homes are more likely to withstand a wildfire if we create a survivable space around it using zones. Chief Kraetz of the Carefree Rural Metro Fire Department suggests taking a look at your property. Is there a space between the vegetation and your home? Do you store flammable materials like firewood, construction materials or other easily ignitable items on the property? Are trees trimmed to prevent the “ladder effect” of grass fires commuting into the trees? Are the small grasses and shrubs thinned and trimmed to slow a fire down? Overgrown vegetation can easily threaten structures.

Chief Kraetz suggests homeowners take the following steps to mitigate the effects of a wildfire:

Zone 1 (First 30 feet from structures)

  • Clean gutters and other roof areas on a regular basis, removing all debris that is flammable.
  • Do not stack firewood or store other combustibles in this zone.
  • Clear grasses, tree limbs, brush and other man-made fuels that can “ladder” a fire up a structure.
  • Prune all trees at least 10 feet from chimneys. Remove any growth near an overhanging roof.
  • Prune all trees six to 10 feet from the ground.

Zone 2 (30 to 100 feet from structures)

  • Thin trees and shrubs at least 10 feet between crowns, more if on a slope.
  • Isolated or small groupings of trees or shrubs are best to create screening and privacy.
  • Prune under large trees to a height of 10 feet.
  • Keep grasses and wildflowers under eight inches high, especially when dry or dormant.

Zone 3 (100’+ away)

  • Prune trees along trails and access roads.
  • Trees that pose a threat to power lines should be trimmed.
  • Specific thinning requirements depend on species. Thinning and pruning, especially “ladder fuels” will keep a fire on the ground.

In addition to paying attention to the property itself, there a few things you can do to help your family and yourself in the event of a large/fast moving wildfire:

  • Know at least two ways of escape from your home. Make sure your family members know these routes.
  • Have a “Go Bag.” This is a collection of items ready to go if you have to leave at a moment’s notice. Items should include a three-day supply of water, food (non-perishable,) flashlight, first aid kit, whistle, prescription medications, formula, diapers, copies of important documents, etc.

As Chief Kraetz points out, we all have a responsibility to alleviate the effects of wildfires in our community. To help homeowners create a plan for mitigation, Rural Metro Fire Department will come to your home and do a pre-wildfire assessment. Call 480.606.3342 to schedule an appointment.

[This is an abbreviated version of Vice Mayor Crane’s JULY 2019 column. Read the full version here.]

To learn more about the Town of Carefree, call 480.488.3686 or visit

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