Three-quarters of a million dollars will be spent to thin more than 2,300 acres of forest land near Prescott. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, in recent years the wooded areas surrounding the city have become especially fire-prone.
The Prescott Basin Cross Boundary Project is one of 15 sites nationally that will benefit from the federal funds. It’ll involve thinning treatments and prescribed burns on public land and private property bordering the forest.
Chronic drought and decades of fire suppression in the Prescott Basin has led to increasingly unhealthy forest conditions. Long-term buildup of fuel and a high tree density has caused the threat of catastrophic wildfire to dramatically increase. Prescott and its surrounding communities, along with animal habitat and watersheds, have become vulnerable.
Debbie Maneely is a public affairs officer with the Prescott National Forest.
“It is a volatile situation there and our forest is unhealthy. There’s a lot of benefits for this project and there is a lot of need to get it done. So, the cost of fighting a wildfire compared to coming in here and doing treatments that we can control is significant,” Maneely says.
The 2013 Dose Fire near Prescott involved the evacuation of 500 homes and cost $7 million to suppress. And just days later, 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.
According to the Forest Service it will need a billion-and-a-half dollars to fight wildfire nationally in 2015.